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Th e Muslim500 ——————————————— THE WORLD’S 500 MOST INFLUENTIAL MUSLIMS
Th e Muslim500 ——————————————— THE WORLD’S 500 MOST INFLUENTIAL MUSLIMS
Th e Muslim500 ——————————————— THE WORLD’S 500 MOST INFLUENTIAL MUSLIMS
Th e Muslim500 ——————————————— THE WORLD’S 500 MOST INFLUENTIAL MUSLIMS
Th e Muslim500 ——————————————— THE WORLD’S 500 MOST INFLUENTIAL MUSLIMS
Th e Muslim500 ——————————————— THE WORLD’S 500 MOST INFLUENTIAL MUSLIMS
Th e Muslim500 ——————————————— THE WORLD’S 500 MOST INFLUENTIAL MUSLIMS
Th e Muslim500 ——————————————— THE WORLD’S 500 MOST INFLUENTIAL MUSLIMS
Th e Muslim500 ——————————————— THE WORLD’S 500 MOST INFLUENTIAL MUSLIMS
Th e Muslim500 ——————————————— THE WORLD’S 500 MOST INFLUENTIAL MUSLIMS
Th e Muslim500 ——————————————— THE WORLD’S 500 MOST INFLUENTIAL MUSLIMS







THE WORLD’S 500 MOST INFLUENTIAL MUSLIMS ——————————————— � 2017 �
THE WORLD’S 500 MOST INFLUENTIAL MUSLIMS ——————————————— � 2017 �
THE WORLD’S 500 MOST INFLUENTIAL MUSLIMS ——————————————— � 2017 �
THE WORLD’S 500 MOST INFLUENTIAL MUSLIMS ——————————————— � 2017 �
THE WORLD’S 500 MOST INFLUENTIAL MUSLIMS ——————————————— � 2017 �
THE WORLD’S 500 MOST INFLUENTIAL MUSLIMS ——————————————— � 2017 �
THE WORLD’S 500 MOST INFLUENTIAL MUSLIMS ——————————————— � 2017 �
THE WORLD’S 500 MOST INFLUENTIAL MUSLIMS ——————————————— � 2017 �
THE WORLD’S 500 MOST INFLUENTIAL MUSLIMS ——————————————— � 2017 �
THE WORLD’S 500 MOST INFLUENTIAL MUSLIMS ——————————————— � 2017 �
THE WORLD’S 500 MOST INFLUENTIAL MUSLIMS ——————————————— � 2017 �
THE WORLD’S 500 MOST INFLUENTIAL MUSLIMS ——————————————— � 2017 �
THE WORLD’S 500 MOST INFLUENTIAL MUSLIMS ——————————————— � 2017 �
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The Muslim 500: 2017 The World’s 500 Most Influential Muslims, 2017 ISBN: 978-9957-635-02-2 ISBN (PDF): 978-9957-635-03-9

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Jordan National Libruary Deposit No: 2016/9/4505
























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Chief Editor: Prof S Abdallah Schleifer Editor-at-Large: Mr Aftab Ahmed

Editorial Board: Dr Minwer Al-Meheid, Mr Aftab Ahmed, and Ms Zeinab Asfour.

Researchers: Aftab Ahmed, Lamya Al-Khraisha, Simon Hart, Zeinab Asfour, Farah Elsharif , and Mr. M AbdulJaleal Nasreddin.

Typeset by: Simon Hart

Set in Garamond Premiere Pro & Myriad Pro Printed in The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan © 2017 The Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre 20 Sa’ed Bino Road, Dabuq PO BOX 950361 Amman 11195, JORDAN

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be re- produced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanic, including photocopying or recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without the prior written permission of the publisher.

Views expressed in The Muslim 500 do not necessarily reflect those of RISSC or its advisory board.

Calligraphy used throughout the book provided courtesy of







Introduction - A Regional Survey


The House of Islam


The Top 50


Honourable Mentions


The Final 450






Administration of Religious Affairs


Preachers & Spiritual Guides


Philanthropy, Charity & Development


Social Issues




Science & Technology


Arts & Culture


Qur’an Reciters




Celebrities & Sports Stars


Top Extremists




Guest Contributions


Muhammad Ali: A Humble Mountain by Imam Zaid Shakir


Setting Science Free From Materialism by Rupert Sheldrake, Ph.D.


Crescent-Visibility and Hijri-Calendar: The Limitations of Mediocre Erudition by Prof. Abdelhaq M Hamza and Dr. Karim Meziane.


How close are the Rohingya in Myanmar to mass genocide? by Dr. Azeem Ibrahim


Political Islam: Can It Be Reformed by Dr. Robert D. Crane


Building Communities with Zakat by Sohail Hanif


Do all lives really matter?. by Faisal Kutty


European Muslims, the migrant crisis and reflexive prejudice by Shenaz Bunglawala


The increasing importance of investing in soft power resources by Muddassar Ahmed


Intimate Enmity: Sectarianism in the Muslim world by Dr. Ali Khan Mahmudabad


Issues of the Day


Major Events Timeline


Appendix I (Population Statistics)


Appendix II (Social Media Statistics)





Media Statistics) 267 Glossary 271 Index The Shahadatayn Calligraphy by Hasan Kan’an ©
Media Statistics) 267 Glossary 271 Index The Shahadatayn Calligraphy by Hasan Kan’an ©

The Shahadatayn Calligraphy by Hasan Kan’an




“In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful” Calligraphy by Mothana Al-Obaidy ©

“In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful” Calligraphy by Mothana Al-Obaidy



W elcome to the eighth an- nual issue of The Muslim 500: The

World’s 500 Most Influential Muslims.

There are approximately 1.76 billion Muslims in the world today, making up 23.85% of the world’s popu- lation, or just under one-quarter of mankind. As well as being citizens of their respective countries, they also have a sense of belonging to the ‘ummah’, the worldwide Muslim community. This publication sets out to ascertain the influ- ence some Muslims have on this community, or on behalf of the community. Influence is: any person who has the power (be it cultural, ideological, fi- nancial, political or otherwise) to make a change that will have a significant impact on the Muslim world. Note that the impact can be either positive or negative, depending on one’s point of view of course. The selection of people for this publication in no way means that we endorse their views; rather we are simply trying to measure their influence. The influence can be of a religious scholar directly addressing Muslims and influencing their beliefs, ideas and behaviour, or it can be of a ruler shaping the socio-economic factors within which people live their lives, or of artists shaping popular culture. The first two examples also point to the fact that the lists, and especially the Top 50, are dominated by religious scholars and heads of state. Their dominant and lasting influence cannot be denied, especially the rulers, who in many cases also appoint religious scholars to their respective positions. This doesn’t discount the significant amount of influence from other sectors of society. The publi- cation selects Muslim individuals from a range of categories of influence, 13 in total:



Administration of Religious Affairs

Preachers and Spiritual Guides

Philanthropy/Charity and Development

Social Issues


Science and Technology

Arts and Culture

Qur’an Reciters


Celebrities and Sports Stars

Extremists How to measure this influence is of course the most challenging aspect of the publication, and the one where opinions diverge the most. Influence can sometimes be gauged on a quantitative basis, the number of people influenced, the number of books written, the amount of sales etc., but more often it is related to the qualitative and lasting effect of that influence. The achievements of a lifetime are given more weight than achievements within the current year. People who are trailblazers, or the lone voice in a remote area are also taken into account. This means that our list of names will change gradually, rather than dramatically, year-on-year. This list acts as an opportunity to shed some light on the many challenges and pioneering triumphs that are present at the very crux of shaping the Muslim community.

What’s In This issue?

As well as the updated Top 50 and 450 lists, we have our regular House of Islam essay which gives an overview of Islam and its branches. We have our distinguished chief editor sharing his annual regional survey of the major events in the Muslim world over the past twelve months. Our Guest Contributions section has exclusive articles covering a wide range of issues from Islam and modern science to the plight of the Rohingya. The Issues of the Day section compiles short reports on some contemporary issues. The ‘Major Events’ section provides a timeline of the major events that have taken place over the past year. Our two Appendices provide us with lots of statistics. Appendix I shows total population and Muslim population by country, for all the countries in the world. Appendix II compiles a list of the highest Muslim Facebook, Twitter and Instagram users, as well as the highest in the world. To give a richer visual understanding of the Mus-

lim world we have not only increased the number of photographs in the Top 25 section but have added some in other sections as well. We have also includ- ed several calligraphy pieces throughout the book, which we hope will serve as a beautiful reminder to pause and reflect as you go through the book. We have also added write-ups within the main body of the text about major initiatives (see Generations of Peace on p. 112, A Common Word on p. 118,

the Marrakesh Declaration on p.125, Free Islamic Calligraphy on p. 133, on p. 162, and a list of the Muslim medal winners in the 2016 Rio Olympics p.177.) Our website [] is a popular destination. We welcome your feedback and will take nominations for the 2018 edition through it.

and will take nominations for the 2018 edition through it. Al-Talaq 65, 12 Calligraphy by Hasan

Al-Talaq 65, 12 Calligraphy by Hasan Kanan



A Regional Survey

Prof. S. Abdallah Schleifer

S o much has changed in one year. Aleppo, now the last Syrian city under

rebel control, is at risk of falling to the Syr- ian Army and its allied fighting forces— above all, Russian war planes bombing with devastating effect those parts of Aleppo still under rebel control. Unless the U.S. and perhaps some NATO allies, France or perhaps the U.K., intervene in some drastic way that cannot but involve a direct clash with the Russian Air Force, or unless that

very threat of war, however limited between Americans and Russians, forces both pow- ers to enforce a ceasefire, Aleppo is doomed to fall. Perhaps its fall will be the price for Russia and America to sit down despite the combative verbal exchanges by both as the bombing of Aleppo intensified, and work out a political solution for Syria that takes into consideration a role for the greatly strengthened Bashar al-Assad.

This time last year this annual Regional Survey was reporting that the Assad regime in Syria was tot- tering. Indeed, one year ago the rebels were gaining on all fronts, Aleppo was firmly in rebel hands, and the Syrian Army was abandoning large portions of the Sunni heartland to defensively concentrate its forces in the centre of Damascus, and in Latakia. Russian warplanes had just arrived in Syria but everyone assumed they were in Syria on a defensive mission to save the Assad regime from collapse. The issue at that moment was who would take Damascus and the concern was that it most likely would be—after some serious in-fighting within rebel ranks —either Jabat al-Nusra or, more likely DA’ISH. This past September, the Kremlin's spokes- man justified the year-old Russian intervention by reminding the world that it had saved Damascus from just such a fate. The Russian intervention wasn't limited to an

expansive air war against the rebels that destroyed 209 oil production and transfer facilities generat- ing millions of dollars a day of revenue in sales for DA’ISH via Turkey; it also helped Syrian government forces retake 400 villages, towns, and cities and regain control of 10,000 sq km (3,800 sq miles) of territory. What tends to be ignored is that the Russian intervention at the request of the government of Syria—included re-training and re-arming the Syr- ian Army as well as the engagement as advisers of a limited number of Russian special forces and artillery units—is no doubt as legitimate, however bloody, as a number of American military inter- ventions during the Cold War at the invitation of government forces threatened by Communist rebellions or invasions. What is so shocking is that Russia which had seemed to acquiesce in its new status of a minor power following the collapse of the Soviet Union and then NATO advancing to its very borders no longer does so. Our minds are so conditioned by the defeat of Communism and the transformation of Russia (which today, at least on an official basis is prob- ably the most religious country in Europe with Putin bringing flowers to the shrines of Russian Orthodox Saints and being conspicuously present at the opening ceremonies of the large new Central Mosque in Moscow) that whenever Russia acts as the global nuclear power that it is, global media and particularly American media, is shocked. Meanwhile DA’ISH has also been rolled back in Iraq, as much by the Kurds backed by Ameri- can warplanes and Shi’a militias as by the Iraqi Army which has been retrained and re-armed by American advisers after its disastrous collapse in northern Iraq in the face of DA’ISH's sweep back into Iraq in 2014. Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq and symbol of DA’ISH victories in 2014, is slowly being sur- rounded by Iraqi Army and Kurdish forces and Iraq's prime minister, Haider al-Abadi predicts the

final push to take the city to begin by the end of October. But what few people are talking about

is the humanitarian crisis that can be expected on

the eve of its fall. As many as a million people are expected to flee the city when the Iraqi government backed by American warplanes and special forces begins to retake the city. Aid workers in northern Iraq have told The New Yorker's particularly percep- tive reporter Dexter Filkins that “they do not have anywhere near the resources, money, or manpower to deal with the expected human tide Ultimately much of Mosul is likely to be destroyed” (The New

Yorker, September 23, 2016). Dexter, reporting from the Debaga refugee camp outside of Erbil notes that this camp is one of many spread across Iraqi Kurdistan, where a million and

a half refugees from other parts of Iraq and from

Syria are already gathered in tents, schools, and

mosques. The camp is designed to accommodate

twenty-eight thousand people and now has nearly forty thousand with further desperate families flee- ing the fighting turning up every day. The camp is

a picture of squalor with families sleeping on the

ground and children playing in an open sewer thirty

feet wide. The stench is overpowering. According to Dexter, Iraqi officials, including Abadi, have brushed off concerns about refugees

and civilian deaths, and have given blithe assur- ances that everything will be fine. That those fleeing Mosul will be overwhelmingly Sunni in religious identity may have something to do with Abadi's indifference. But the director of the International Rescue Committee in Erbil says “it’s a nightmare, a disaster heading our way”. Muslim and Christian holy places continued to be destroyed in areas controlled by DA’ISH. In Aleppo, once a great Syrian centre of Sufism, 90 percent of all Sufi shrines and centres have been de- stroyed. This process of desecration and destruction staged by various groups of Salafis, dates back to the beginning of the Arab Spring in 2011 and occurred in a number of Arab and other Muslim countries. They have been noted in our section on ‘Destruc- tion of Religious and Ancient Sites’ (pp 241 ??) Over the past few years there have been many direct victims of Takfiri-Jihadi terrorism, mostly in the Muslim world but also in Europe and America as described in detail later in this Introduction, but there have also been indirect victims—I am referring to those European Muslims and in par- ticular those American Muslims who have been intimidated and at times their mosques attacked as Islamophobia and hate crimes have increased over the past two years.

as Islamophobia and hate crimes have increased over the past two years. Syrian city of Aleppo

Syrian city of Aleppo GEORGE OURFALIAN / AFP

According to the Centre for the Study of Hate and Extremism at the San Bernardino campus of California State University, hate crimes against American Muslims were up by 78 percent over the course of 2015 the highest level since the reaction to the 9/11 Al-Qaeda attacks in 2001. Curiously hate crimes against all other all other minority groups in America—including blacks, Hispanics, Jews, and homosexuals of one form or another have declined, which might suggest that innate racism or prejudice in America is on the decline. So it is obvious that those hate crimes and the Islamophobic speech that fosters hate crimes are a response to attacks staged by DA’ISH or lone wolf terrorists who publically declared their allegiance to DA’ISH in the West. That response has been stimu- lated by the ravings of Donald Trump in both his primary and presidential campaigns. “We're see- ing these stereotypes and derogatory statements become part of the political discourse,” says Brian Levin, director of the California State University centre. And while Muslims have been among the many victims (particularly the attack in Nice, France, where perhaps a third of the victims were Muslims) the overwhelming majority of the victims in the West are clearly non-Muslims. All Americans and Europeans—a category that is overwhelmingly non- Muslim are the obvious targets of these attacks and Takfiri-Jihadi justification for such attacks date back to Osama bin Laden's infamous two-decade old fatwa calling upon Muslims to kill Christians and Jews in the West whenever and wherever possible. To ignore this factor, as some writers do and attribute it instead to some innately Western rac- ism, reflects an unhelpful ideological blindness to the horrendous effects of Takfiri-Jihadi terrorism in the West. However, the brunt of Islamist extremism has been felt most in the Muslim world and the fact that Takfiri-Jihadis have killed far more Muslims than non-Muslims is not particularly well known among non-Muslims in the West. DA’ISH has launched several murderous attacks against Turkey, particularly against Kurdish Turks whom have provided support for those Syrian Kurds living close to the Turkish border who have suc- cessfully driven DA’ISH fighters from a number of Syrian border villages. More than 200 Turks have been killed in these suicide bomber attacks and nearly 600 wounded. DA’ISH has also targeted

Turkey because the government in Ankara has seri- ously curtailed DA’ISH's previous ability to secure supplies in Turkey, and use Turkey as a route for foreign volunteers to make their way into DA’ISH controlled territory in Syria. Turkish war planes

have also attacked DA’ISH's forces operating in Syria as part of the international coalition. Turkey has also suffered the trauma this past July of a faction of the Turkish Armed Forces attempting

a coup against President Recep Erdogan (see bio on

page 52) and his government. During the very brief and very inept attempted coup over 300 people were killed and more than 2,000 injured. Mass ar- rests followed with at least 6,000 people detained including at least 2,839 soldiers and 2,745 judges. Some 15,000 educational staff were suspended and the licenses of 21,000 teachers working at private in- stitutions were revoked. Over 100,000 people have been purged from various sectors. Erdogan accused his one time ally Fethullah Gulen (see bio page 99) of organizing the coup and has demanded that the United States extradite Gulen back to Turkey. Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein (see bio on page 104) raised con- cerns at the scale of the crackdown, but he had no sympathy with the plotters of the attempted coup who sought to topple Erdogan's democratically elected government. Donald Trump's successful campaign for the Re- publican nomination has been the most recent and major factor in the polarization of American poli-

tics; intra-party as well as inter-party polarization. One particularly relevant aspect of that polarization

is found in how the respective Democratic and Re-

publican party platforms voted at the nominating conventions that both parties held in the summer. In past elections the official Republican and Democratic positions on Israel and the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict were largely identical, thereby ensuring that perhaps the most emotional of all issues in foreign affairs would not become a partisan issue in the United States. That changed this past summer. The Republican platform which Trump and others have described as the ‘most pro-Israel of all Time’ diverges from the Democratic from its counterpart sharply. The Democratic platform simply stated its opposition to the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement; the Republicans described BDS as “one of several alternative forms of warfare” being waged against Israel, and went on to reject “the false no- tion that Israel is an occupier.” Along with other

differences the Republican platform contains no reference to the establishment of a Palestinian state while the Democratic platform urges that “Palestin- ians should be free to govern themselves in their own viable state, in peace and dignity.” As one prominent pro-Israeli American activ- ist sees it, the Republican platform backs Israeli “territorial rights in the West Bank and even goes beyond stating the obvious that Judea and Samaria are properly Jewish territories.” One member of the committee that drafted the platform, South Carolina State Representative Alan Clemmons in a speech to the committee declared that “the false notion that the Jewish state is an occupier is an anti-Semitic attack on Israel's legitimacy.” The Re- publican platform is more aggressive in its language than the Israeli government. The final irony is that this extreme platform posi- tion is probably not so much aimed at a few million Jewish Americans, the majority of whom support the two-state solution and the Democratic Party, but at the estimated 20 or so million predominantly Evangelical ‘Christian Zionists’ who for their own convoluted theological reasons support the most extreme elements in Israel and reportedly contrib- ute more money to Israel than the American Jews. Sheikh Abdallah bin Bayyah is ranked as the ninth most influential Muslim in the world with “his influence derived from his scholarship, piety and preaching.” This past year Sheikh bin Bayyah, sponsored by Morocco's King Muammed VI, led some 250 renowned Muslim leaders in a three- day summit in Marrakesh entitled ‘The Rights of Religious Minorities in Predominantly Muslim Majority Communities.’ With Takfiri-Jihadis kill- ing the followers of other religions in the name of Islam and some Salafi sheikhs stirring up Muslim villagers in the Upper Egyptian countryside to at- tack their Christian neighbours and burn down their churches, Sheikh bin Bayyah considered it imperative that the leading Muslim ulema meet and denounce that violence as well as affirm the full rights of religious minorities in the Muslim world. Rights, which according to Bin Bayyah and the other ulema, that go back to the original Charter of Medina drawn up by the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). This was not the first time Sheikh bin Bayyah had convened a meeting of the ulema to deal with this issue, but the Marrakesh Declaration is the most explicit and detailed affirmation of minority rights

to be published in the contemporary Muslim world. Some in the Muslim world have wondered why so much more attention was paid in Western media to DA’ISH's attacks in Paris and Brussels compared to the attacks in Turkey as well as several other Muslim countries. The most obvious reason is that Western media, like any media, will always be more sensitive to disturbing events in their own countries or region than elsewhere. But it is also significant that as American and European war planes have contributed to DA’ISH loss of territory, DA’ISH will strike out at Western targets in retaliation and also to remind the world and particularly its followers, that despite an in- creasing number of setbacks in Syria and Iraq, it is still very much alive and active. As it continues to lose territory and fighters, these attacks will prob- ably accelerate, and for the time being it will retain the mantle as the most successful Takfiri-Jihadi organization in a succession of terrorist movements that stretch back nearly five decades. This past September was the 15th anniversary of the 9/1l Al-Qaeda hijacked airliner attacks that lev- elled New York's World Trade Center and smashed into the Pentagon in Washington killing nearly 3,000 people (approximately 2,100 American civil- ians, and almost 400 civilians from over 90 other countries). It changed the world in many ways. It altered global perception of the danger of Takfiri-Jihadi terrorism. This was not Al-Qaeda’s first attack against America: That entry in the his- tory of contemporary Islamist terrorism goes to Al-Qaeda's suicide bombing of two American em- bassies in Africa in 1998. That operation managed to kill more Muslims than any other national or religious category and in the years that followed— in particular the most recent years of DA'ISH and Al-Qaeda operations in Syria, Iraq, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Yemen, Egypt, Mali, and Afghani- stan—it has consistently been the rule. Nor was 9/11 the first Takfiri-Jihadi operation in America. The first bombing of the World Trade Center (WTC) occurred on 26 February 1993 when a van loaded up with 660 kilos (1,336 pounds) of high explosives was detonated in the underground public parking area of the WTC's North Tower. The tremendous blast was supposed to topple the North Tower into the South Tower, bringing both down in an attempt to kill more than 10,000 people. That did not happen. All of the parking area was totally destroyed as were two other underground levels,

but the building held and since only six people were killed (more than a thousand were injured) the relatively small number of deaths tended to lessen in public consciousness what should have been grave national concern. The mastermind of the operation—Kuwaiti- born, with a Pakistani father and a Palestinian mother, Ramzi Yousef—had trained at one of the Al-Qaeda camps in Afghanistan. But he was one of many Arab and Asian Muslims who received terror- ist training at an Al-Qaeda camp without joining Al-Qaeda. His colleagues recall him as relatively in- different to Islamic practice but equally passionately pro-Palestinian and anti-American. Ramzi claimed the operation in the name of ‘The Liberation Army’ in a communiqué sent to New York City newspa- pers and then fled New York for Pakistan only a few hours after the blast. Ramzi was subsequently arrested in Pakistan and brought back to America where extensive investigations indicated there was no direct connec- tion between Osa- ma bin Ladin and this attack. But in the murky world of Takfiri-Jihadis there are cross- over associations, or even—as we will see when consider- ing the origins of DA’ISH, direct lines of descent between what are generally

considered and ap-

pear to be separate organizations. A pause to consider terminology. DA’ISH the Arabic acronym for the so-called Islamic State, so one does not have to keep typing ‘so-called’ nor honour a movement committed to mass murder with a title that implies some sort of legitimacy. As for using ‘Takfiri-Jihadi’ instead of Salafi-Jihadi even though the latter is a more recognizable and theologically comprehensive word—Takfir is the practice of labelling a Muslim who does not fol- low one's particular understanding of Islam as an apostate (for any number of reasons) and therefore worthy of death. Denounced as a doctrine by or- thodox or traditional ulema, it has been used by terrorists to brand as apostate an individual, or head

of state, or his government, or an entire people, or

the entire Muslim world save for those who accept the Takfiri's understanding of Islam, which is invari- ably an extreme Salafi understanding— generally an extremely harsh rather than merciful and com- passionate interpretation of Islam, the Quran, the Prophet's sayings and doings which are for Muslims

a living commentary upon the Quran. Like the

radicalism of the 17th Century British militant Puritan and Regicide Oliver Cromwell, the Salafi tend to be deeply suspicious of beauty, the spiritual path of the Sufis, the reality of Sainthood, and the baraka (spiritual grace) that surrounds them, be they alive or dead. To the degree that Salafi sheikhs preach obedi- ence to the Muslim ruler and do not takfir their fellow Muslims they remain a trend, however harsh, within a broad traditional or Orthodox Islam. Not every Salafi is a Takfiri by any means, but nearly all Takfiris are Salafis. One prominent Takfiri who was probably not a Salafi in any strict sense was Sayyid Qutb the Egyptian literary and social critic and the Mus- lim Brotherhood's leading spokesman in the politically turbulent early 1950s. Qutb adopt- ed the concept from the Indian-

Pakistani Islamist Maulana Maududi and popularized the

word and the concept in Islamist circles, though

it already existed as a working concept but not as

a word in a ferocious 18th and early 19th century

Arabian Salafi movement. Maududi had applied the term to Indian Muslims who attended and perhaps participated in Hindu festivals. Sayyid Qutb applied it to his torturers—to Nasser and his ruling circle, the State Security officers during Nasser's rule, and presumably any Muslim who ac- tively opposed Qutb's vanguard—a term borrowed from Marxism—which would overthrow existing regimes and impose an Islamic state. But back to the first attack on the World Trade Center: The operation was modestly financed by Ramzi's uncle Muhammed Sheikh Muhammed,

financed by Ramzi's uncle Muhammed Sheikh Muhammed, People hold a banner reading “Daesh, off you go,

People hold a banner reading “Daesh, off you go, Brussels isn’t for you!” THIERRY CHARLIER / AFP

A sign reading in Arabic: “Shooting range” Omar haj kadour / AFP then an independent

A sign reading in Arabic: “Shooting range” Omar haj kadour / AFP

then an independent Takfiri-Jihadi. He would go on to refine an idea of Ramzi's, that would in its final form turn hijacked planes into deadly weapons in their own right capable of taking out buildings like the World Trade Center. And Muhammed Sheikh—who took this concept to Osama bin Laden—would play a major role in the conception and planning of Al-Qaeda's attack nine years later. However Ramzi's key contact in America was the blind Jihadi sheikh Omar Abdul Rahman, who preached at two mosques—one in Brooklyn, New York and one in New Jersey where his Arab-Amer- ican followers were concentrated. Sheikh Umar introduced Ramzi to those of his followers singled out to become Ramzi's co-conspirators. Sheikh Omar—a graduate of Al-Azhar but considered by the Azhari faculty as a bizarre and unorthodox figure—had served as the religious guide of the Ga- maat Al-Islamiya which had initially been a purely political and cultural—even mainstream Muslim student organization that rose in its earliest form at Cairo University to combat the Marxist-Left Nasserist tendency among students. They were sup- ported by Egypt's then new President Anwar Sadat following the death of Gamal Abdul Nasser. Sadat was opposed by the Left Nasserist tendency that had assumed that one of its own would inevitably inherit the leadership after Nasser, even though Sadat was Nasser's Vice-President. After the 1973 War the Gamaat radicalized, which is when Sheikh Omar, as an Islamist, and an admirer of Sayyid Qutb—the Lenin of radical Islamism—rose in the leadership. In Cairo the post- 1973 Muslim Brotherhood dominated the Gamaat in those earliest years, but outside of Cairo and

particularly in the more radical Upper Egyptian universities, in- dividuals secretly affiliated with the underground Al-Jihad group often assumed leadership. By 1980 Sheikh Omar had become the leader of the Gamaat and briefly led the group into an alli- ance with Al-Jihad, one of whose leaders was Ayman Al-Zawahiri, now the leader of Al-Qaeda. Although the alliance did not last, Sheikh Omar did provide Al-Jihad with a fatwa that would justify the assassination of Anwar Sadat which they carried out on 6 October 1981. Both Zawahiri and Sheikh Omar were arrested after the assassination and both got off quite lightly. The assassination was not carried out by Zawahiri's own Al-Jihad cell and he claimed that he did not even know of the plan to assassinate Sadat until a few hours before the attack. He kept his cell away from participating in any operation in what was supposed to be an armed Islamist uprising imme- diately following the assassination. As for Sheikh Omar he argued in court that his fatwa—which stated that a heretical leader of a Muslim country could be killed—did not mention Sadat by name or allude to him. Although Sheikh Omar was on a State Depart- ment terrorist list, he managed to secure a visa to America sometime after his release from prison and ended up at the Brooklyn and New Jersey mosques where he openly preached a Takfiri-Jihadi under- standing of Islam. When tried in America after the first World Trade Center attack carried out by his followers, he was identified as the mastermind of a new plan to attack the United Nation’s headquar- ters in New York, as well as other landmarks in the city and the tunnels that link the city's different boroughs together. It is significant that early on Osama bin Laden called upon the US government to release Sheikh Omar. Years later, reflecting the hardening of atti- tude Zawahiri, who had become Bin Laden's deputy and later the leader of Al-Qaeda, would call upon Egyptians to kidnap Americans and ransom them off in exchange for the release of Sheikh Omar. And not to imply that Egypt's former President and now prisoner Muhammed Morsi, a high rank- ing figure in the Muslim Brotherhood is a Takfiri-

Jihadi, nevertheless it is also significant that Morsi upon assuming the Presidency also called upon America to release ‘the Blind Sheikh’ in what one scholar suggested was intended as a gesture to his right flank—more militant members of the Muslim Brotherhood as well as his Salafi allies. Whatever, Sheikh Omar is considered by many Jihadis and scholars as ‘the spiritual guide of 9/11’. Zawahiri had already served on two occasions as a short-term volunteer doctor for the Pakistani Red Crescent treating the Mujahidin wounded, during two visits to Pakistan following the Soviet invasion of neighbouring Afghanistan. At the same time, Bin Laden was fund-raising in Saudi Arabia for the Mujahidin and shuttling back and forth on weekends from Jeddah to Peshawar, the Pakistani city close to Afghanistan, and where young Arabs arriving in Peshawar to join the Jihad against the Communist regime in Afghanistan supported by Soviet troops would be hosted by Bin Laden. It was in either city that Zawahiri met Bin Laden and would eventually lead what remained of Al-Jihad into Al-Qaeda. The spiritual hardening and radicalization of these men—Zawahiri, Bin Laden, and Sheikh Omar—and their respective organizations, whose paths would cross is a complex story; not to men- tion how Bin Laden shifted his vision of Al-Qaeda as a mobile army of Jihad confronting enemy forces like the Soviet soldiers (whom he barely fought) to a relatively small tight knit group of terrorists out to kill non-combatant Christians and Jews in the West. It is brilliantly reported on in Lawrence Wright's Pulitzer Prize winning book The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11. It is also significant that while Bin Laden, operat- ing comfortably in Taliban dominated Afghanistan in the immediate pre 9/11 period, did not establish a state but instead went through the motions of swearing allegiance to the Taliban leader Mullah Umar. Al-Qaeda nevertheless had an obvious ter- ritorial presence resembling a state within a state and thus were closest at that moment to DA'ISH and its territorial conquests, had the highest rate of volunteers flocking to its banner as is proving to be the case with DA’ISH—though as its Syrian and Iraqi territory shrinks, the number of foreign volunteers flocking to its banner has been declining. To the above list of leading Takfiri or Salafi- Jihadi luminaries we must now add the name of Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi.

He was in spirit the founder of DA’ISH, and set what is now perceived of as DA’ISH'S style of vid- eo-taped beheadings, attacks upon the Iraqi Shi'a and their mosques, gangland mass executions of Shi'a prisoners of war, the advocacy of an extreme Salafism, and the dispatch of terrorists from Syria and Iraq with deadly results in Amman, Casablanca, and Istanbul—just as DA’ISH has done in Paris, Brussels, and Istanbul—while leading a brutal, well- armed, uniformed fighting force on the ground in Iraq. He is the mutually uncomfortable short-lived link between Al-Qaeda and what would emerge as DA’ISH (more about Zarqawi later). From the perspective of Al-Qaeda the most sig- nificant result of 9/11, which followed upon their rapid defeat as an elite fighting-force for the Tali- ban by American and allied anti-Taliban Afghan forces invading Afghanistan, was the decision by US President George W. Bush to go on and invade Iraq and depose Saddam Hussein and his Baathist regime. However irrelevant to tracking down Bin Laden and whatever then remained of Al-Qaeda, the invasion was strongly advocated by the very pro-Israeli as well as influential neo-conservative circles around George Bush's Vice President, his Secretary of Defense and neo-conservative pub- lications in Washington and New York. Not just to invade Iraq, but to do so and then to occupy Iraq with something like half the number of troops with which the US armed forces (along with allied Arab armed forces) had driven Saddam's army out of Kuwait in 1991. And then to dissolve the Iraqi Army, whose humiliated Sunni ranks became the first foot soldiers and more noticeably the officers for the Iraqi Sunni Resistance. ‘Sunni’ because the dominant Iraqi political forces which replaced the Baath were increasingly sectarian Shi'a in nature bent on revenge upon the Arab Sunnis for what they considered to be many decades of Arab Sunni domination. There were no Jihadis in Iraq prior to the Ameri- can invasion. Zarqawi briefly maintained a small, ir- relevant camp in the Kurdish controlled mountains of northern Iraq—but this was ungoverned guerrilla turf which was nevertheless part of US protected Iraqi Kurdistan since 1991 and thus untouchable by Saddam. But after the American invasion, Takfiri- Jihadis flooded into Iraq from neighbouring states. They were welcomed as dedicated and, in some cases, seasoned fighters by the Sunni tribes in revolt against the American occupation and the new re-

gime in Baghdad. This was particularly the case with Zarqawi, who like many of the European Muslim youths to be recruited by DA’ISH a decade later, was a marginalized figure before flourishing first as a mujahid in Afghanistan where he acquired his particularly brutal version of Salafism. A Jordanian high school drop-out, gang member, heavy drinker, bootlegger, and petty criminal—then after a brief turn in prison—Zarqawi became a reborn Muslim, but not yet the extreme Salafi that he soon would be. Leaving for Afghanistan to fight the Afghan Communist government abandoned by the Soviet Union, he met—among the many for- eign Islamists who had also come to fight alongside the Afghan mujahidin (many of whom, like most other Afghans, were by no means Salafi)—a fellow Jordanian, the militant Salafi preacher and writer, Sheikh Abu Muhammed al-Maqdisi, who became his mentor. Returning to Jordan with Maqdisi, they formed an underground group and began to acquire arms with the intent of overthrowing the Hashemite Monarchy and establishing a Salafi Islamist state. Discovered by the authorities Zarqawi, Maqdisi, and a number of their followers were arrested, tried, and sent to prison. There Zarqawi emerged as a popular leader with Maqdisi as his religious adviser, recruiting Islamist and other prisoners into his group known then as Jund Al-Shems. He reportedly considered those prisoners outside his group as kuffar—heretics or unbelievers. Articles written largely by Maqdisi but also by Zarqawi were smuggled out of the prison and put online for the world-wide attention of Salafi readers (For considerably more and fascinating details: ‘The Short Violent Life of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’ by Mary Anne Weaver in the July/August 2006 issue of The Atlantic and available online). In 1999 Zarqawi, Maqdisi and other members of his group were released in a general amnesty. Within months he had revived his group Jund Al- Shams and was plotting to bomb the Radisson SAS Hotel in Amman on New Year's Eve. The plot was discovered but Zarqawi had fled to Pakistan before he could be arrested. From there he crossed back into Afghanistan. By now he was just prominent enough in Takfiri-Jihadi circles to have come to the attention of Osama bin Laden and he met with him and other Al-Qaeda officials. According to eye-witness accounts, they did not particularly get along. But after protracted discus-

sion within the Al-Qaeda leadership, Bin Laden agreed to provide Zarqawi with $5,000 to start a training camp of his own in Herat, Afghanistan near the border with Iran. After setting up the camp with only a few dozen followers, it swelled to nearly 3,000 within months, including the families of many of Zarqawi's fighters. Most of Zarqawi's lieutenants by this time were Syrians who had fought in Af- ghanistan, and most of these men were members of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood. For that reason the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood's exiled leader- ship, which at the time was largely based in Europe, played an extremely important role in recruiting for the Herat camp, according to Mary Anne Weaver's impressive sources. A number of times Bin Laden called upon Zarqa- wi to take an oath of allegiance—to make bayat—to Bin Laden, but he always refused. But in October 2001 when the US began its invasion of Afghanistan with air attacks Zarqawi and his fighters joined up with Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. In December following the collapse of the Taliban and accom- panied by a few hundred of his fighters, Zarqawi crossed over from Herat into Iran, basing himself in part in Iran while also setting up his camp in the mountains of Iraqi Kurdistan. During this time he also travelled to Syria and to a Palestinian refugee camp in the south of Lebanon, where he recruited more fighters. He also expanded his network in the Sunni triangle of Iraq. The Iranians, at the time, reportedly saw they would be in a struggle with the Americans for control of Iraq after the Americans deposed Saddam. And for that phase and only that phase Zarqawi would be useful. Three months after US forces invaded Iraq in March 2003, Zarqawi and his fighters moved into the Sunni Triangle. He was by now well known, indeed to the whole world, for when US Secretary of State Colin Power sought UN support at the Security Council shortly before the invasion, he declared that Zarqawi was the link between Al- Qaeda and Saddam Hussein. This was but one of the many faulty pieces of ‘intelligence’ presented to the world by the Bush administration, but while inaccurate, it boosted Zarqawi's prestige. Within weeks after returning to Iraq, Zarqawi launched his infamous attacks—first a car-bomb attack upon the Jordanian embassy in Baghdad, and less than two weeks later the monstrous attack on UN headquarters in Iraq, killing 22 people, includ- ing the UN secretary general's Special Iraqi Envoy

Aergo Viera de Mella. By now Zarqawi had renamed his group Al-Tawhid wa Al-Jihad—Monotheistic Unity and Jihad—with its trademark black banner, which more than a decade later was flown more conspicuously than ever by DA’ISH. Indeed it is the repeated image of truck loads of DA’ISH fighters waving black banners and chanting Takfiri-Jihadi hymns that have had such a powerful impact upon the foreign youth watching this basic scene repeated with slight variations in DA’ISH propaganda videos broadcast via the Internet. In August Zarqawi staged a car bombing just outside of Shi'a Islam's most holy shrine in Najaf, killing more than 100 people, including the popu- lar Iraqi Ayatollah Muhammed Baqr al-Hakim. By March 2004, he was bombing Shi'a shrines in Karbala and Baghdad, killing nearly 200, and car bomb attacks in the holy cities in Najaf and Karbala in December 2004. There were also suicide and more conventional bombings of civilians in Shi'a neighbourhoods, often at shrines and neighbour- hood mosques and open markets, which continue to this day. But it was in May 2004 that that Zarqawi taped the first theatrical beheading of an American civil- ian, Nicholas Berg, wearing the now familiar orange jump suit with five men dressed in black with their faces covered, standing behind the kneeling hostage. One of them steps forward and with a long knife cuts off Berg's head. This was the first in a series of taped beheadings of hostages. A decade later, this same scene of an American civilian in an orange jump suit with his masked killer dressed in black with face covered would become a DA’ISH video spectacular. As for his targeting of the Shi'a and their shrines, Zarqawi was not just implementing his hatred for Shi'a Muslims, whom he considered apos- tates, he was also trying to provoke a Shi'a- Sunni Iraqi civil war, which would lead to an increase of Sunni recruits. For all of his activities in Iraq, Zarqawi had never abandoned his hope of overthrowing the Jordanian monarchy. In 2002, while briefly operating in Syria, he sent a gunman to Amman to kill the American diplomat Lawrence Foley. In 2004, Jordanian in- telligence disrupted a Zarqawi plot to blow up the headquarters of the Jordanian intelligence services with a truck that was to be loaded with a massive amount of explosives capable of killing hundreds if not thousands of people. Finally in October 2004, after months of nego-

tiations, Zarqawi swore his allegiance to Osama bin Laden. His organization again changed its name. In a shortened version it was now known as Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) and Zarqawi declared that he was now to be known as the Amir of Al-Qaeda in the land of Mesopotamia. Neither Bin Laden nor Zarqawi had changed their respectively negative first impressions, but Bin Laden needed a formal Al-Qaeda presence in Iraq, and Zarqawi as Al-Qaeda's Amir in Iraq would strengthen his support among Iraqi Sunnis. Less than a year later, Zarqawi exercised the op- erational independence he had negotiated with Al-Qaeda by sending suicide bombers to Amman to take out three hotels. The most grizzly attack was at the Radisson SAS Hotel, where there was an almost bizarre demonstration of the AQI's perverse interpretation of Islam. Two members of AQI, a single man and a single woman, were married in Iraq before travelling to Amman because, according to Shari’a, a man and a woman who are not directly related to each other may not travel together—and indeed their assignment was to travel together to Amman and blow themselves up at a large wedding party composed almost entirely of Jordanian and Palestinian non-combatant civilians which included many women and children. Zarqawi's tribe, the Al-Khalayleh took out half page ads in Jordan's three main newspapers, declared their homage to King Abdallah and to Jordan, and denounced Zarqawi and all of his actions. ‘We sever links with him until doomsday’. A similar drama would be played out ten years later when DA’ISH burnt to death a captured Jor- danian pilot, and when none other than the Salafi- Jihadi sheikh and former mentor and comrade of Zarqawi, Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi denounced DA'’ISH quoting the Prophet that ‘No one punishes with fire save the Lord of the fire’. Maqdisi had already broken with Zarqawi at the time of the suicide bombings at the three hotels in Amman.

the time of the suicide bombings at the three hotels in Amman. Recapturing Sharqat from DA’ISH

Recapturing Sharqat from DA’ISH AHMAD AL-RUBAYE / AFP

A little more than six months later, Zarqawi was killed when a US Air Force jet dropped two 230 kilo (500 pounds) bombs on an isolated safe house in Iraq. Meanwhile the man the world now knows as Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, Zarqawi's eventual successor as commander first of AQI and then of DA’ISH but who reverted to his birth-name when he introduced himself in Mosul's Central mosque as the Caliph Ibrahim, the false living deputy of the Prophet and head of the supposedly revived Islamic State (the very vision of a ‘state’ absent from Arabia and most of the rest of the world at the time of the Prophet— the 7th century. Al-Baghdadi, the False Khalifa would be hailed— after his dramatic appearance in the central mosque of Mosul—by his murderous and rapist follow- ers—as the ‘Commander of the Faithful’, until then an honourable title borne by the kings of Morocco and by that 19th century epitome of the true and chivalrous Mujahid, the Algerian Abdul Qadir Al-Jazeeri, Sheikh of both his tribe and the Qadari tariqa. Abdul Qadir never committed or ordered an atrocity during his many years of fighting the often vicious French invaders and indeed demonstrated great kindness to his French Prisoners of War. (See:

Commander of the Faithful: The Life and Times of Emir Abd el Kader - A Story of True Jihad by John W. Kiser) Born in Samara, Baghdadi's family reflected that curious mixture of religious and socio-political currents that could characterize Iraqi life until the post-Saddam Hussein period of sectarian politics introduced by the American administrators effec- tively ruling Iraq, leading to ethnic cleansing on both sides—of Sunnis in Shi'a majority areas and of Shi’a in predominantly Sunni neighbourhoods throughout Baghdad and other cities. Baghdadi's father was not just active in the religious life of his community, teaching at the local mosque, but was reportedly a Salifi—as were several other family members. The family claimed descent from the Prophet but the family tree that proclaimed this Sharifian status included well-known Shi’a ances- tors in Samarra from a much earlier time. (The biographical data for Baghdadi is sketchy—most of what we know has been compiled for the Brookings Institution by William McCants, a fellow at Brook- ings Institution's Center for Middle East Policy.) Some members of this religious family joined the ruling Baath Arab Socialist Party which might

seem peculiar given the party's militant secularism which Saddam Hussein shared and cultivated. Two of Baghdadi's uncles served in Saddam's security forces and one of his brothers became an officer in the Iraqi Army. But following the long war with Iran and the confrontation in 1990-91 with America over the invasion and occupation of Kuwait, Saddam suddenly cultivated a religious image, adding ‘Al-

lahu Akbar’ to the Iraqi flag while posters of him in

a turban at prayer soon circulated not only in Iraq

but across the Muslim world. Though even well before this switch to Islamic imagery, it was pro forma that anyone holding or seeking a government job joined the Baath party. Baghdadi had left Samarra to attend the Univer- sity of Baghdad, but because of his poor high school grades he failed to qualify for the law school, so he took up Qur’anic studies there instead. He went on in 1996 to do graduate work at the recently estab- lished Saddam University for Islamic Studies—an academic monument so-to-speak to Saddam's new image as defender of Islam. It is significant that his

dissertations for both the MA and the PhD were in Qur’anic Recitation, which besides being a skill he reportedly excelled in, also enabled him to avoid theological studies, where his extreme Salafi views would have put him into open conflict with more mainstream perspectives. Yet as the holder of a PhD in Islamic studies, he would acquire a misleading public authority for theology. Baghdadi lived with his growing family in a poor neighbourhood of Baghdad near the Haji Zaydan mosque where he could pursue his two passions— playing football for the Mosque's team and teaching the recitation of Qur’an to the neighbourhood children as well as making the call to prayer from the mosque. He also began to develop an increasingly radi- cal political sensibility. A paternal uncle who was

a member of the Muslim Brotherhood recruited

Baghdadi to join. There he rapidly drifted into a radical faction among the many Salafis in the Iraqi

Brotherhood who referred to themselves as Salafi- Jihadis. In the chaos that followed the fall of Baghdad in 2003, the disbanding of the Iraqi Army and the bitterness among Sunnis who considered themselves victims—as many indeed were of a vast vindictive de-Baathication program approved by the US gov- ernment but implemented by the new Shi'a rulers of Iraq—Baghdadi organized his own Salafi-Jihadi

military unit that fought against US troops and their Iraqi allies. In February 2004 he was arrested in Fallujah while visiting a friend who was on an American wanted list of insurgents. Baghdadi, keeping as ever a low profile, was not on that list. So he was taken simply as a ‘civilian detainee’ not as a Jihadi. During the ten months he remained in custody at the detention centre known as Camp Bucca in southern Iraq, where he avoided giving the Ameri- cans any indication of his militant status, Baghdadi devoted himself to leading prayer, giving the khutba on Friday, conducting religious classes for fellow- prisoners, and playing football, where he was a star. He became a mediator between rival groups of prisoners and between the prisoners as a whole and the camp authorities, acquiring still more status. Many of the several thousand Sunni inmates at Camp Bucca had served in Saddam's military or in his intelligence services. Baghdadi cultivated them As McCants notes, “If they weren't jihadists when they arrived, many of them were by the time they left. Radical jihadist manifestos circulated freely un- der the eyes of the watchful but clueless Americans. Bucca was a factory. The prisoners dubbed the camp 'The Academy' and during his ten months in resi- dence, Baghdadi was one of its faculty members.” A few months before Baghdadi's release, Zarqawi had—with the blessing of Bin Laden—renamed his insurgent group Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI). Baghdadi made contact and was welcomed into AQI as a rare (among Salafi-Jihadis) academically trained reli- gious scholar and was assigned as a jihadi equivalent of a commissar to ensure that AQI online propa- ganda conformed with the extreme Takfir-Jihadi theology that AQI professed. Zarqawi intended to announce his plans to es- tablish a so-called Islamic State which Bin Laden considered premature. Zarqawi's immediate succes- sor, the Egyptian Abu Ayyub al-Masri went ahead with the plan, dissolving AQI and declaring that the former AQI militants were now fighters for DA’ISH. Al-Masri put an Iraqi, Abu Umar into the position of a figurehead Emir or leader of DA’ISH. The new leaders privately pledged their individual loyalty to Bin Laden, but officially they declared that DA’ISH was an independent movement. Meanwhile Baghdadi was rising through the ranks. Because of his scholarly credentials he was put in charge of the group's religious affairs, but since at that time DA’ISH didn't control any territory

Baghdadi, continued in his role as a religious com- missar, but now was also making sure that DA’ISH fighters implemented the extreme Salafi policies that Zarqawi had initiated, including the execution of whoever opposed their program as apostates. By now Baghdadi had also finished his dissertation and acquired his PhD which increased his prestige within the leadership, and along with the post of supervisor of the Shari’a Committee, made him the head enforcer of DA’ISH's twisted, brutal version of Shari’a law. Al-Masri also named Baghdadi to the 11-member Consultative Council, the highest body governing DA’ISH. Then in April 2010 a US-Iraqi force learned where the two top DA’ISH leaders were hiding and Al- Masri and Abu Umar blew themselves up rather than surrender. The head of DA’ISH's military Council, Hajji Bakr ignored Bin-Laden's instructions to send him

a list of possible candidates for the leadership. As

a former officer in Saddam's Army, Bakr knew it

was not viable for him to assume the leadership. But he probably assumed, correctly as it were, that Baghdadi would be less loyal to Bin-Laden and his deputies who constantly complained from Zarqawi's time onwards about first AQI’s and then DAI’SH ’s particularly brutal ways, especially to - wards the Shi'a. Bakr convinced the majority of the Consultative Council to vote for Baghdadi as the new emir, and proceeded to discredit or assassinate whatever opposition there was within the leading cadres of DA’ISH. As American forces killed or captured Zarqawi's previous field commanders, their replacements were often former prisoners from Camp Bucca cultivated by Baghdadi and, like Bakr, also former officers in Saddam's military or intelligence service. As Mc- Cants and others have observed, such men would prove to be most useful in training the typical DA’ISH recruits into disciplined and capable fight- ers as well administering what would soon become

a new emerging totalitarian state. Baghdadi and Bakr decided that to revive the fortunes of DA’ISH and secure protection from US-Iraqi raids, like the one that had led to the death of the initial successors, they would have to seize territory and declare the Caliphate. As McCants notes by 2011—the year of the Arab Spring—the growing unrest in Syria provided them with their

greatest opportunity. Initially the Syrian rebellion against the Assad regime was non-violent, but one

of Baghdadi's Syrian operatives was sent back to Syria to organize a secret branch of DA’ISH to in- troduce violence into the uprising and set such chaos into motion that DA’ISH would be able, as a disciplined fighting force, to start seizing land. This DA’ISH started to do, soon acquiring extensive terri- tory in eastern Syria. The Syrian branch was named Jabat al-Nusra. which not only would in a short time split from DA’ISH but most recently changed its name—to Jabhat Fatah al-Sham. To prevent confusion I will refer to Jabhat al- Nusra now known as Jabhat Fatah simply as Jabhat since they are one and the same organization. Jabhat means ‘Front’ and of course there are other rebel groups whose names begin with Jabhat, but since we are not directly concerned with them, my conveni- ent use of the name Jabhat will not be confusing. The split from DA’ISH and more recently the change of name go back to a tactical adjustment. In part on Jabhat's own initiative and in part from guidance it was receiving from Al-Qaeda's new leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, who had replaced Bin Laden after he was killed by the US Navy Seals in May 2013, and who believed it was wiser for Jabhat to secure popular support in Syria before estab- lishing a territorial state, by cooperating with the many other armed rebel groups fighting to oust Assad—be they secular Muslim brigades, many led by Sunni defectors from the Syrian Army, to a variety of Islamist groups that were in some cases affiliated or led by members of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, but in all cases were not Salafi-Jihadis as in the DA’ISH and Jabhat sense. There are literally hundreds of these brigades, some numbering as few as fifty to one hundred fighters. Baghdadi disagreed with Zawahiri to whom he had already pledged a private oath of allegiance. He believed as McCants so aptly put it that “there was already an Islamic State; it just needed to be made real by territorial conquest in Syria. The Jabhat’s increasing cooperation with the other Sunni rebels was thwarting that plan”. Baghdadi ordered his subordinates in Jabhat to comply with his strategy. They refused. Baghdadi responded by announcing that Jabhat was part of DA’ISH and renamed DA’ISH as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. The Jabhat leader responded by renouncing Baghdadi's authority and publically pledging his own direct allegiance to Zawahiri who accepted this oath and ordered Baghdadi to concern himself only with Iraq which Baghdadi refused.

So DA’ISH started to seize large parts of eastern Syria, pushing out the other rebel groups including Jabhat. Zawahiri countered by expelling DA’ISH from Al-Qaeda which he did in February 2014. In the subsequent in-fighting with Jabhat, DA’ISH not only had the upper hand but it recruited many of Jabhat's foreign fighters because, according to McCants, those fighters were more interested in establishing a territorially defined Islamic State than trying to topple Assad's regime. With little or no attention to a thousand years of traditional Islamic jurisprudence which fleshed out the various mitigating circumstances that limited the severity of the well-publicized Shari’a punishments—by Salafi-Jihadists and many other Islamists on one-hand as well as their opposite numbers—those of the Islamophobia industry in the West. If brutality characterizes one side of this weird convergence of opinion, conscious stupidity characterizes the other. Early in 2014, DA’ISH forces which had lined up alongside the Sunni tribes in Iraq revived the fight against the Shi’a dominated government ruling Iraq. Baghdadi sent his fighters to join up with the tribesmen and Baathist secularists and, by early 2014, were making steady gains in western Iraq. The American trained and lavishly equipped new Iraqi Army riddled by corrupt, incompetent high rank- ing officers chosen for their Shi’a sectarian loyalty rather than military skill collapsed as the DA’ISH of- fensive gathered momentum. Wherever policemen and soldiers resisted, DA’ISH rounded them up and taped their deaths in brutal mass executions. Those video tapes which made their way onto YouTube or Salafi-Jihadi websites terrified many Iraqi Army soldiers and security forces. Units disintegrated and fled, and DA’ISH har- vested a rich supply of American equipment in- cluding tanks, armoured cars, troop carriers, rocket launchers, artillery, and huge amounts of small arms and ammunition, not to mention control of some of Iraq's oil fields, as it had done in eastern Syria, providing until fairly recently extraordinary wealth. In June 2014, DA’ISH, launched a lightening attack on Mosul, Iraq's second largest city, and captured it with great ease as the demoralized and terrified (by the videos) soldiers fled before the far inferior numbers of DA’ISH fighters who stormed the city. As for Jabhat, it had harvested a much smaller amount of American arms provided to different re- bel groups of very small numbers, who were trained,

equipped, and sent into Syria. These rebel groups were quickly ambushed by Jabhat forces, who re- lieved them of their arms—and even accepted some defectors into their own ranks. So the US got out of recruiting, equipping, and training its own rebel units and instead has shifted to supplying favoured, existing rebel units already in the field. The problem is that, whether the rebels have been fighting Assad's Army and the Lebanese Hizballah and Iranian Revolutionary Guards fighting along- side the Syrian Army, the best fighters in this loose and shifting rebel alliance has been the Jabhat. But the US ranks Jabhat with DA’ISH as terrorists, which they certainly were in their earliest appearance as DA’ISH's initial operation in Syria. The US started talking with Russia about a cease fire between the Syrian Army and rebel forces in 2016. Russia's bold and dramatic intervention on the side of Assad's largely exhausted forces in 2015 shifted the balance in the fighting. Where rebel forces including the Jabhat had been steadily gain- ing ground as the Syrian Army abandoned much of the Sunni countryside in order to bolster and secure their stronghold in central Damascus as well as Latakia, with its high proportion of Alawites—the nominal Shi’a community that Bashar al-Assad and his long ruling late father Hafez al-Assad, are part of along with many of the senior officers in the Syrian Army and intelligence services. But the cease fire excluded the Jabhat as well as DA’ISH. This was unsettling a number of the rebel brigades who were undertaking campaigns against both Assad's forces and DA’ISH. Jabhat units were valued as allies by many of the rebel units because of Jabhat forces superior fighting skills. In the hope of changing that situation and to strengthen their non Salafi-Jihadi rebel allies ar- guing their case, the Jabhat officially broke with Al-Qaeda and symbolized that break by abandon- ing its original name Jabhat al-Nusra for its new name as Jabhat Fatah al-Sham. So the one remaining significant force of fighters that were part of the Al-Qaeda franchise in the Syrian-Iraqi battle fronts abandoned Al-Qaeda, which is now at its weakest situation since its post 9/11 revival in Iraq and Syria. Over the past year and beginning with the counter-offenses in 2015, DA’ISH has lost approxi- mately half the territory it had acquired in Iraq and Syria. As its territory has begun to shrink, DA’ISH has unleashed deadly terrorist attacks in Western Europe and Turkey. The most dramatic and highly

publicized attacks occurred in Paris and its northern suburb of St. Denis outside of the stadium in St. Denis during a football match followed by suicide bombings and shootings in Parisian cafes, restau- rants, and at a concert hall during the performance of a metal rock band appropriately named Eagles of Death. The other most dramatic attack staged by DA’ISH in Europe occurred in Brussels on 12 March 2016. Two coordinated two suicide bombings at the Brussels airport and another at Maalbeek metro sta- tion killed 32 people and wounded more than 300. But the equally if not more troubling phenomena was that of ‘Lone Wolf ’ attacks where individuals, some with vague connections to DA’ISH, and in other cases claiming allegiance to DA’ISH without any known association or contact with them. The motives of the ‘Lone Wolves’ are difficult to de- termine. There is always a personal issue; a deep discontent, a soul consuming anger, or a record of mental illness involved. By their very nature they are untrackable since they usually have no association at all with any terrorist network. However, DA’ISH has called upon any unknown sympathizers in Europe and America to initiate such attacks. One of the most bloody of such attacks was staged by Omar Mateen, who killed 45 people and injured more than 230 people in an attack on a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida in June 2016. During the attack Mateen declared his allegiance to DA’ISH although he had no known contact. He was killed by Orlando police. An earlier attack in December 2015 occurred in San Bernardino, California when 14 people were killed and 22 injured in a terrorist attack at a Christmas party by a married couple who were later killed by police, but not before the wife declared via the internet that they supported DA’ISH. In the French resort of Nice a Tunisian resident in the city used a massive refrigerator truck to run down and kill 83 people and injure another 307 walking along the Promenade des Anglais in Nice when he ploughed through the crowds celebrating Bastille Day. The rise of western ultra-right wing political par- ties and organizations are feeding off the tragedies in a Schadenfreude frenzy. Indeed, even mainstream politics finds traction in capitalizing on the fear of Islam, as in the United States with Donald Trump, representing the Republican Party, calling for Nazi- esque laws by which all Muslims in the country would need to register in a government database.

Trump supporters would like to go further with de- portations and immigration bans of Muslims. Sadly, these ideas echo across the Atlantic throughout Europe, who are overwhelmed with a refugee cri- sis—largely from Muslim countries—on a scale that has never been seen in history. Although there are a number of social, economic, and political problems stemming from a variety of causes, right-wing politi- cians across the continent use anti-Muslim rhetoric to push agendas and rally support for their policies. Many of these are counter to the democratic basis of Europe’s constitutions. Recent elections throughout Europe have all shown gains to right-wing parties— notably Austria’s Freedom Party gaining over a third of the vote—and all have used Muslim migration and Islamophobia as rallying points. As mentioned before, the true brunt of Islamic extremism has been felt in Muslim countries. In the same month as the Paris attacks, DA’ISH detonated two suicide bombs in the Beirut suburb Bourj el- Barajneh, killing forty-three people. In the same month in Egypt, DA’ISH attacked a hotel in the coastal city of Al-Arish. Two militants gained access to the hotel, killing seven people with gunfire and a suicide bomb. Two judges supervising Egypt’s par- liamentary elections were among the dead. Also that month in Tunis, a DA'ISH suicide bomber attacked a bus carrying Tunisian presidential guards in Tunis, killing twelve people. In September 2016, DA'ISH was responsible for a double suicide car bombing at a popular shopping mall in downtown Baghdad, killing forty people and injuring sixty people. In Africa, DA’ISH has taken on the form of Boko Haram since its leader Abubakar Shekau (see bio on page 176) formally pledged allegiance in March 2015. Although supposedly defeated, they claimed responsibility for a double female suicide bomb- ing which killed twenty-two people praying in the Molai-Umarari mosque on the outskirts of Mai-

praying in the Molai-Umarari mosque on the outskirts of Mai- A minute of silence held for

A minute of silence held for the victims of the Bastille Day attack in the city of Nice JEAN CHRISTOPHE MAGNENET / AFP

duguri, the birthplace of the armed wing of Boko Haram. One of the women disguised herself as a man to gain access, detonating her bomb during prayers. The second detonated her bomb outside as people fled the mosque. Most of the extremists’ attacks in Africa were carried out by Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). In Mali in November 2015, they attacked the Radisson Blu hotel in Bamako, taking over 170 hostages. Malian commandos raided the hotel, freeing the hostages. Twenty hostages were killed in the incident. In Burkina Faso in January 2016, AQIM attacked the Cappuccino restaurant and the Splendid Hotel in Ouagadougou. The extremists took 176 hostages. After a government led counter- attack, thirty people died, including former Swiss MPs Jean-Noël Rey and Georgie Lamon, and fifty- six people were injured. Three attackers were killed in the gunfight. A fourth attacker was killed after fleeing to the nearby YIBI Hotel. And in Ivory Coast in March 2016, AQIM attacked the Étoile du Sud beach resort in Grand-Bassam, killing eighteen people and injuring thirty-three people. The ex- tremists were killed by police forces after reaching La Paillote Hotel. While Africa suffers under the Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, South Asia suffers under the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). In Pakistan in October 2015, they killed seven people and injured thirteen in a bomb targeting the political office of Pakistan Muslim League MNA Sardar Amjad Farooq Khan Khosa, who was not present at the time. In January 2016, two TTP extremists fired upon Bacha Khan University near Charsadda, killing twenty- two people and injuring over twenty more. Over 200 students fled the campus. The two extremists were killed by security forces. In March 2016, the TTP were suspected of bombing a bus of govern- ment employees in Peshawar, killing fifteen people and injuring twenty-five people. Also that month, they killed seventy-five people and injured over 340 people in a suicide bombing at the main entrance of Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park in Lahore. The attack targeted Christians who were celebrating Easter. However, the majority of the victims were Muslim women and children. Continuing their targeting of Christians in September 2016, the TTP attacked a Christian colony near the town of Peshawar, killing one, and detonating a suicide bomb in a district court in the town of Mardan, killing eleven people and injuring forty-one people. A total of four suicide bombers

entered the colony, but local civilian guards and security forces responded quickly, preventing fur- ther loss of life. On the legal side on the fight against Islamic extremism, the International Criminal Court tried Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi, leader of the Hesbah of the Ansar Dine and Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, for the destruction of Timbuktu's 15th-century Sidi Yahya Mosque, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The trial marks the first time that the destruction of a world heritage site is classified as a war crime. On 27 September 2016, Ahmad al-Mahdi was found guilty and sentenced to nine years imprisonment. The Sidi Yahya Mosque has since been restored, and at the dedication ceremony for the reinstallation of the mosque’s sacred gate, the Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, stressed the importance of renovations and the community by stating: “The reinstallation of the sacred gate, a religious and cultural landmark of Timbuktu, marks a new and decisive step in Mali’s reconstruction and peace building work. This—along with the reconstruc- tion of the mausoleums of Timbuktu and the trial of those responsible for their destruction at the International Criminal Court—sends strong mes- sage to all extremists”. Also on the legal front this last year, Radovan

Karadžić was found guilty of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity, and sentenced to forty years imprisonment. He was found guilty of genocide for the Srebrenica massacre, which aimed to exterminate the Bosnian Muslim community. He was also convicted of persecution, extermina- tion, deportation, ethnic cleansing, and murder in connection with his campaign to drive Bosnian Muslims and Croats out of villages claimed by Serb forces. While the guilty verdict sent a warn- ing to those who would commit genocide in the future, many Bosnians did not feel the sentence was harsh enough with many calling for life imprison- ment—or even capital punishment. Since Karadžić is seventy-one years old and must serve nineteen more years in prison, many argue that it is unlikely that he will live to finish his sentence. Another old legal case that has received justice concerns Hissène Habré, the former leader of Chad. The Extraordinary African Chambers found Habré guilty of rape, sexual slavery, and ordering the kill- ing of 40,000 people during his tenure as Chadian president and sentenced him to life in prison. The verdict marked the first time an African Union- backed court convicted a former African ruler for human-rights abuses and the first time that the courts of one country have prosecuted the former

and the first time that the courts of one country have prosecuted the former Chilcott Report

Chilcott Report Dan Kitwood / POOL / AFP

ruler of another country for crimes against human- ity. It also signalled to the world that justice does not originate from the West; that justice may come from within. Justice may also come in admission to long past mistakes. In this case, in admitting that the Iraq War in 2003 was based on falsities. In July 2016, seven years after UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced the inquiry, The Iraq Inquiry was pub- lished. Sir John Chilcot published a public state- ment in which he stated that Saddam Hussein did not pose an urgent threat to British interests, that intelligence regarding weapons of mass destruction was presented with unwarranted certainty, that peaceful alternatives to war had not been exhausted, that the United Kingdom and United States had undermined the authority of the United Nations Security Council, that the process of identifying the legal basis was "far from satisfactory," and that a war in 2003 was unnecessary. The report is available under an Open Government Licence. The response to the report by the Americans was simply to ignore it, as John Kirby, the US State Department spokes- person, noted, “We’re not going to go through it, we’re not going to examine it, we’re not going to try to do an analysis of it, or make a judgment of the findings one way or the other”. Tony Blair took responsibility for the political decisions made at the time but stated that the report made "real and material criticisms of preparation, planning, process, and of the relationship with the United States". However, many conclude that Tony Blair was not to blame directly for the UK ’s participation in the Iraq War, but that he was deceitfully led into the war by politicians wanting the war. The hope is that politicians and the public that elects them will become more introspective about their poli- cies concerning war and military actions—not in shying away from such things, but in making sure that rightful, just cause is used. At the end of August 2016, an Islamic confer- ence of Sunni scholars met in Grozny, Chechnya to discuss what defines a Sunni—or more specifically an Ahla Sunnah wa Jama’a. The Grand Mufti of Al-Azhar, Sheikh Ahmad Muhammad al-Tayyeb (see bio on page 36), defined the Sunni community (Ahla Sunnah wa Jama’a) as those who follow Imam Abul-Hasan Al-Ash’ari and Imam Abu Mansur Al- Maturidi and the scholars of Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi'i jurisprudence, as well as the moderate scholars of Hanbali school. He also included the Sufis fol-

lowing in the way of Imam al-Junayd. While some criticised the conference for excluding some Muslim countries—particularly those states identifying closely to Salafi and Wahhabi thought—that fact in itself has become a point of discussion. Already within some circles of Muslims—especially in the West—there are signs of growing interest in tra- ditional Islamic sciences, especially the aqeedah of Al-Ash’ari and Al-Maturidi. One might hope that this knowledge of traditional Islam will fight radicalization of Muslims more than the democratic civics and secularization courses some western coun- tries are demanding. As DA’ISH loses more and more of its territory— most imminently Mosul and eventually even its strong hold and de facto capital in Raqqa, Syria— both types of terrorist attacks that have plagued Europe and the United States, as well as Turkey and Indonesia are likely to increase as retaliation for its defeat on the ground in Syria and Iraq. What is incredible is how slow it has taken and the unwill- ingness of the Arab League of States, or the Muslim equivalent, to form a large expeditionary force of infantry, assisted by the revived New Iraqi Army, the rebels in Syria and the most effective fighters against DA’ISH—the Kurds of Iraq and the Kurds of Syria with logistical support from the West to coordinate air cover for the ground forces. But what is most troubling of all is that the mur- derous ferocity of the procession of Takfiri-Jihadi groups, increases with each new formation. That is a disturbing thought as we consider the immi- nent demise of DA’ISH and wonder about the next manifestation.

demise of DA’ISH and wonder about the next manifestation. —S. Abdallah Schleifer Distinguished Visiting Professor

—S. Abdallah Schleifer

Distinguished Visiting Professor Future University in Egypt



I. The House of Islam

This section reprinted by permission of Vincenzo Oliveti © 2001 (with the exception of President Obama’s speech)

© 2001 (with the exception of President Obama’s speech) he religion of Islam is based on

he religion of Islam is based on belief in the One God (who in Arabic is called Allah). It was founded by the Prophet Mu- hammad (570-632 CE) in the ancient cities of Makkah and Madinah, in the west coast of the Arabian Peninsula (known as the Hijaz). God revealed to the Prophet Muhammad the Holy Qur’an, the Sacred Book of Islam. The religion this created, however, was not a new message but simply a final restatement of God’s messages to the Hebrew Proph- ets and to Jesus. The Holy Qur’an says:

Say ye: we believe in God and that which is re- vealed unto us and that which was revealed unto Abraham, and Ishmael, and Isaac, and Jacob, and the Tribes, and that which Moses and Jesus received, and that which the Prophets received from their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them, and unto Him we have submitted.


Moreover, the Holy Qur’an did not exclude the pos- sibility of revelations other than those that were given to the Prophets mentioned in the Bible (and thus did not exclude the possibility of other genuine ancient religions other than Judaism, Christianity and Islam). God says, in the Holy Qur’an:

Verily we have sent Messengers before thee [O Mu- hammad]. About some of them have we told thee,


and about some have we not told thee

And verily we have raised in every nation a Mes- senger [proclaiming]: serve God and shun false



The Essence of Islam

The essence and substance of Islam can be easily summed up by three major principles (which are also successive stages in the spiritual life): Islam (meaning ‘submission to God’s will’); Iman (meaning ‘faith in

God’), and Ihsan (meaning ‘virtue through constant regard to, and awareness of, God’). The second Caliph, the great ‘Umar ibn al Khattab, related that:

One day when we were sitting [in Madinah] with the Messenger of God [the Prophet Muhammad] there came unto us a man whose clothes were of exceeding whiteness and whose hair was of exceeding blackness, nor were there any signs of travel upon him, although none of us knew him. He sat down knee upon knee opposite the Prophet, upon whose thighs he placed the palms of his hands, saying: ‘O Muhammad; tell me what is the surrender (Islam)’. The Messenger of God answered him saying: ‘The surrender is to testify that there is no god but God and that Muhammad is God’s Messenger, to perform the prayer, bestow the alms, fast Ramadan and make if thou canst, the pilgrimage to the Holy House.’ He said, ‘Thou hast spoken truly,’ and we were amazed that having questioned him he should corroborate him. Then he said: ‘Tell me what is faith (Iman)’. He answered: ‘To believe in God

and His Angels and his Books and His Messen- gers and the Last Day [the Day of Judgement], and to believe that no good or evil cometh but by His Providence.’ ‘Thou hast spoken truly,’ he said, and then: ‘Tell me what is excellence (Ihsan).’ He answered: ‘To worship God as if thou sawest Him, for if Thou seest Him not, yet seeth He

thee.’ ‘Thou hast spoken truly,’ he said

Then the

stranger went away, and I stayed a while after he had gone; and the Prophet said to me: ‘O ‘Umar, knowest thou the questioner, who he was?’ I said, ‘God and His Messenger know best.’ He said, ‘It

was Gabriel [the Archangel]. He came unto you to teach you your religion.’ 1

Thus Islam as such consists of ‘five pillars’: (1) the Shahadatayn or the ‘two testimonies of faith’ (whose inward meaning is the acknowledgement of God).

1 Sahih Muslim, ‘Kitab al Iman’, 1, N.I. (The Hadiths

of the Prophet , like all sacred texts, are written above in italics).

(2) The five daily prayers (whose inward meaning is the attachment to God). (3) Giving alms or Zakat— one-fortieth of one’s income and savings annually to the poor and destitute (whose inward meaning is the detachment from the world). (4) Fasting the Holy month of Ramadan annually (whose inward meaning is detachment from the body and from the ego). (5) Making the Hajj (whose inner meaning is to return to one’s true inner heart, the mysterious square, black-shrouded Ka’ba in Makkah being the outward symbol of this heart). Thus also Iman as such consists of belief in all the essential doctrines of religion (and the inner meaning of this is that one should not go through the motions of religion and of the five pillars of Islam blindly or robotically, but rather have real faith and certainty in one’s heart). Thus, finally, Ihsan as such consists in believing that God always sees us, and therefore that one must be virtuous and sincere in all one’s actions. In this connection the Prophet said: ‘By Him in whose Hand is my Life, none of you believes till he loves for his neighbour what he loves for himself ’. 2 In summary, we could say that the essence of Islam is exactly the Two Commandments upon which Jesus said hangs all the Law and the Prophets:

And Jesus answered him, The first of all com- mandments is…the Lord our God is one Lord; And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy understanding, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second com- mandment is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these. 3

The Canon of Islam

Islam does not, like Christianity, have a clergy. There is no temporal or even spiritual institute that holds it together or unifies it. So how has it held together— and indeed, flourished—for the last fourteen centu- ries approximately, when its scholars and temporal policymakers keep changing and dying out over time? How has it remained so homogeneous that the Islam of 1900 CE was doctrinally exactly the same as the Islam of 700 CE? Where have its internal checks and balances come from? The answer is that Islam has a traditional canon: 4 a

2 Sahih Muslim, ‘Kitab al Iman’, 18, n. 72.

3 The Gospel according to Mark 12:29 –31. (See also

Deuteronomy 6:5; and Matthew 22:37– 40).

4 Even the English word ‘canon’ comes from the Arabic

collection of sacred texts which everyone has agreed are authoritative and definitive, and which ‘fix’ the principles of belief, practice, law, theology and doc- trine throughout the ages. All that Muslim scholars (called ulema and muftis or sheikhs and imams) have left to do is to interpret these texts and work out their practical applications and details (and the principles of interpretation and elaboration are themselves ‘fixed’ by these texts), so that in Islam a person is only con- sidered learned to the extent that he can demonstrate his knowledge of these texts. This does not mean that Islam is a religion of limitations for these texts are a vast ocean and their principles can be inwardly worked out almost infinitely in practice. It does mean, how- ever, that Islam is ‘fixed’ and has certain limits beyond which it will not go. This is an extremely important concept to understand, because misunderstanding it, and setting aside the traditional canon of Islam, leads to people killing and assassinating others in the name of religion. The traditional canon of Islam is what protects not just the religion of Islam itself, but the world (including Muslims themselves) from terrorism, murder and oppression in the name of

word kanun meaning ‘law’ or ‘principle’.

Islam. The canon is Islam’s inter- nal check and balance system; it is what safeguards its moderation; it is ‘self-censorship’ and its ultimate safety feature. To be more specific, the tradi- tional Sunni Islamic Canon starts with the Qur’an itself; then the great traditional Commentaries upon it (e.g. Tabari; Razi; Zam- akhshari/Baydawi; Qurtubi; Jala- layn; Ibn Kathir; Nasafi; and al Wahidi’s Asbab al Nuzul); then the eight traditional collections of Hadith, the sayings of the Prophet, (e.g. Muslim; Bukhari; Tirmidhi; Ibn Hanbal, al Nasa’i; Al-Sijistani; Al-Darimi and Ibn Maja); the later Muhaddithin, or Traditionists (e.g. Bayhaqi; Baghawi; Nawawi and ‘Asqalani); then the traditional biographical and historical works of Sira (Ibn Ishaq, Ibn Sa‘d, Waqidi; Azraqi; Tabari; and Suhayli); the Risala of Al-Shafi‘i: the Muwatta’ of Imam Malik; the Ihya’ ‘Ulum al Din of Ghazali; Ash‘arite and Maturidian theology; the (original) ‘Aqida of Tahawi; Imam Jazuli’s Dala’il al-Khayrat, and finally—albeit only extrinsically—Jahiliyya poetry (as a background reference for the semantic connotations of words in the Arabic language). We give a specific (but not exhaustive) list here in order to minimize the possibility of misunderstanding.

Islam in History

It is evidently not possible to do justice to the role of Islam in world history, thought and civilisation in a few words, but the following paragraph by Britain’s

Prince Charles attempts it:

‘The medieval Islamic world, from Central Asia to the shores of the Atlantic, was a world where scholars and men of learning flourished. But because we have tended to see Islam as the enemy, as an alien culture, society, and system of belief, we have tend- ed to ignore or erase its great relevance to our own history. For example, we have under- estimated the importance of eight hundred years of Islamic society and culture in Spain between the 8th and 15th centuries. The contribution of Muslim Spain to the preservation of classical learning during the Dark Ages, and to the first flowerings of the Renaissance, has long been recognised. But Islamic Spain was much more then a mere larder where Hellenistic knowledge was kept for later consumption by the emerging modern Western world. Not only did Muslim Spain gather and preserve the intellectual content of ancient Greek and Roman civilisation, it also interpreted and expanded upon that civilisation, and made a vital contribution of its own in so many fields of human endeavour—in science, astronomy, mathematics, algebra (it self an Arabic word), law, history, medicine, pharmacology, optics, agriculture, architecture, theology, music. Averroes [Ibn Rushd] and Avenzoor [Ibn Zuhr], like their counterparts Avicenna [Ibn

Sina] and Rhazes [Abu Bakr al Razi] in the East, contributed to the study and practice of medicine in ways from which Europe benefited for centuries afterwards.’ 5

On 4 June, 2009, US President Barack Obama said the following at Cairo University:

‘As a student of history, I also know civilisation’s debt to Islam. It was Islam—at places like Al-Azhar—that carried the light of learning through so many centuries, paving the way for Europe’s Renaissance and Enlight- enment. It was innovation in Muslim communities that developed the order of algebra; our magnetic compass and tools of navigation; our mastery of pens and printing; our understanding of how disease spreads and how it can be healed. Islamic culture has given us majestic arches and soaring spires; timeless poetry and cherished music; elegant calligraphy and places of peaceful contemplation. And throughout history, Islam has demonstrated through words and deeds the possibilities of religious tolerance and racial equality.

I also know that Islam has always been a part of America’s story. The first nation to recognize my country was Morocco. In signing the Treaty of Tripoli in 1796, our second President, John Adams, wrote, ‘The United States has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Muslims.’ And since our founding, American Muslims have enriched the United States. They have fought in our wars, they have served in our government, they have stood for civil rights, they have started businesses, they have taught at our universities, they’ve excelled in our sports arenas, they’ve won Nobel Prizes, built our tall- est building, and lit the Olympic Torch. And when the first Muslim American was recently elected to Congress, he took the oath to defend our Constitution using the same Holy Koran that one of our Founding Fathers—Thomas Jefferson—kept in his personal library.’ 6

5 HRH the Prince of Wales, ‘Islam and the West’, a lecture given at the Sheldonian Theatre, Oxford on October 27th, 1993, pp.17–18.

6 Barack Obama’s speech in Cairo, ‘Remarks by the President on a New Beginning’ June 4, 2009.

Top LefT: A manuscript of Jazuli’s Dalail Al-Khayrat LefT: Alhambra palace in Spain RighT: Al-Azhar Mosque

II. Major Doctrinal Divisions Within Islam

Sunni Theology

1) Ash’ari and Maturidi Schools: Sunni Orthodoxy 1

These two schools of doctrine are followed by the bulk of Sunni Muslims and differ only in minor details.

Ash'ari School: This school is named after the followers of the 9th century scholar Abu al Hasan al Ash'ari (874–936 CE) and is widely accepted throughout the Sunni Muslim world. They believe that the characteristics of God are ultimately beyond human comprehension, and trust in the Revelation is essential, although the use of rationality is important.

Maturidi School: This school is named after the followers of the 9th century scholar Muhammad Abu Mansur al Maturidi (853–944 CE) and has a wide following in regions where Hanafi law is practiced. They have a slightly more pronounced reliance on human reason.

2) Salafi School

This school was developed around the doctrines of 18th century scholar Muhammad ibn Abd al Wahhab (1703–1792 CE). Salafis have specific doctrinal beliefs, owing to their particular interpreta- tion of Islam, that differentiate them from the majority of Sunnis, such as a literal anthropomorphic interpretation of God. Salafis place a great emphasis on literal interpretation of the Qur’an and Hadith, with skepticism towards the role of human reason in theology.

3) Mu’tazili School

This school was developed between the 8th and 10th centuries. Although it is traced back to Wasil ibn Ata (d. 748 CE) in Basra, theologians Abu al Hudhayl Al-‘Allaf (d. 849 CE) and Bishr ibn al Mu’tamir (d. 825 CE) are credited with formalizing its theological stance. Mu’tazili thought relies heavily on logic, including Greek philosophy. Although it no longer has a significant following, a small minority of contemporary intellectuals have sought to revive it. Mutazilites believe that the Qur’an was created as opposed to the Orthodox Sunni view that it is eternal and uncreated. Moreover they advocate using rationalism to understand allegorical readings of the Qur’an.

1 Orthodoxy in Islam is based on verse 2:285 of the Holy Qur’an, and has been best defined by the historical 2005 international Islamic consensus on the 'three points' of the Amman Message (see: the Amman Message at the end of this section):

Shia Theology

1) The Twelver School

The infallibility ('Ismah) of the Twelve Imams descended from the family of the Prophet (Ahl al- Bayt) who are believed to be the spiritual and rightful political authorities of the Muslim community (Umma). The twelfth Imam, the Mahdi, is believed to be in occultation to return in the future.

2) Isma'ili School

The Qur’an and Hadith are said to have truths lying with a single living Imam, descended directly from the Prophet. Also known as 'seveners' for their belief that Isma'il ibn Ja'far was the seventh and final leading-Imam of the Muslim community.

3) Zaidi School

The infallibility of the Twelve Imams and the notion of occultation are rejected in favour of ac- cepting the leadership of a living Imam. The Imamate can be held by any descendant of the Prophet (Sayyid). Also known as 'fivers' by other Muslims for their belief that Zayd ibn Ali was the fifth leading-Imam of the Muslim community.

Ibadi Theology

Ibadi School

Ibadis believe that God created the Qur’an at a certain point in time, and that God will not be seen on the Day of Judgment. They also believe in the eternal nature of hell for all those who enter it.

III. Ideological Divisions



(90% of the world's Muslims)

Also known as Orthodox Islam, this ideology is not politicized and largely based on consensus of correct opinion—thus including the Sunni, Shi‘a, and Ibadi branches of practice (and their subgroups) within the fold of Islam, and not groups such as the Druze or the Ahmadiyya, among others.



(9% of the world's Muslims) (8% Salafi; 1 % Ikhwan);

This is a highly politicized re-

ligious ideology popularised

in the 20 th century through movements within both the Shi‘a and Sunni branches of Islam—characterised by ag- gressiveness and a reformist attitude toward traditional Islam.



( 1% of the world's Muslims)

Emerging from 19th century Ottoman Turkey and Egypt, this subdivision contextual- ized Islamic ideology for the times—emphasizing the need for religion to evolve with Western advances.

IIIa. Traditional Islam

Sunni (90% of the world's traditional muslims)

The largest denomination of Muslims referred to as Ahl as Sunnah wa'l Jama'h or 'people of the prophetic tradition and community'—with emphasis on emulating the life of the last Prophet, Muhammad.

Schools of Sunni Islamic Law







Named after the followers of Imam Abu Hanifa (699–767 CE/ 89–157 AH) in Iraq.

Named after the followers of Imam al Shafi'i (767–820 CE/ 150–204 AH) in Madinah.

Named after the followers of Imam Malik (711–795 CE/ 93–179 AH) in Madinah.



Named after the followers of Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal (780–855 CE/ 164–241 AH) in Iraq.

IIIa. Traditional Islam (continued)

Shi‘a (9.5% of the world’s traditional Muslims) The second-largest denomination of Muslims referred to as
Shi‘a (9.5% of the world’s traditional Muslims)
The second-largest denomination of Muslims referred to as Shi‘atu ‘Ali
or ‘the party of Ali,’ the fourth caliph of Islam and first Imam in Shi’ism.


Schools of Islamic Law for Twelver Shi‘a

Zaidis (Fivers) (Less than 1%) Named after the followers of Imam Zaid ibn ‘Ali (695–740 CE) in Madinah.

Twelvers (8%) Named after the followers of Imam Ja'far al Sadiq (702–765 CE/ 83–148 AH)
Twelvers (8%)
Named after the followers
of Imam Ja'far al Sadiq
(702–765 CE/ 83–148 AH) in

Isma'ilis (Seveners) (Less than 0.5%) Named after the followers of Muhammad ibn Ismail (746–809 CE/128–193 AH) in Madinah.


99% of Twelvers. This dominant school favors the use of ijtihad, independent legal reasoning, with an emphasis on four accepted collections of Hadith. Derive legal opinions from living ayatollahs, or mujtahids, whose rulings become obligatory. Taqlid, the practice of following rulings without questioning the religious authority, is a core tenet of this school. The name Usuli is derived from the Arabic term usul meaning 'principle'.


Akhbaris reject the use of ijtihad or reasoning, and do not follow marjas who practice ijtihad. They also prohibit exegesis of the Qur’an. Derive legal rulings from the Qur’an, Hadith, and consensus. The name Akhbari is derived from the Arabic term akhbar meaning 'traditions'. They can trace their roots to the followers of Muhammad Amin Astarabadi (d. 1627 CE). Akhbaris continue to exist to this day, although in small, concentrated pockets, particularly around Basra, Iraq.

Ibadi (0.5% of the world's traditional Muslims)

The Ibadi school has origins in and is linked to the Kharijites, but the modern day community is distinct from the 7th century Islamic sect. It was founded after the death of Prophet Muhammad and is currently practiced by a majority of Oman's Muslim population. Also found across parts of Africa.

IIIa. Traditional Islam (continued)

Mystic Brotherhoods

Although reliable statistics are not available for the millions of Muslims who practice Islamic mysticism, it has been estimated that 25% of adult Sunni Muslims in 1900 CE participated in these brotherhoods as either murids (followers of the Sufi guide of a particular order) or mutabarrikin (supporters or affiliates of a particular Sufi order).

Sunni Orders

Naqshbandiyya Founded by Baha al Din Naqshband (d. 1389 CE) in Bukhara, modern day Uzbekistan. Influence:

popular from China to North Africa, Europe and America.

Qadiriyya Founded by scholar and saint 'Abd al Qadir al Jilani (1077–1166 CE) in Baghdad, Iraq. Influence: stretches from Morocco to Malaysia, from Central Asia to South Africa.

Tijaniyya Ahmad al Tijani (d. 1815 CE) who settled and taught in Fez, Morocco. Influence: major spiritual and religious role in Senegal, Nigeria, Mauritania and much of Sub-Saharan Africa.

Shadhiliyyah Founded by the Moroccan saint Abu'l-Hassan al Shadili (d. 1258 CE). Influence: most influential in North Africa and Egypt.


(d. 1221

Uzbekistan. Influence: mostly present across Central Asia.


CE) from

Khawarzm, modern

Suhrawardiyya Founded by Persian scholar Abu Najib Suhrawardi (d. 1168 CE) in Iraq. Influence: a strong presence in India.

Chishtiyya Founded by the Persian saint Mu'in al Din Chishti (d. 1236 CE) Khurasan. Influence: highly influential

in India.


A Turkish order founded by the Persian saint and

poet Jalal al Din Rumi (d. 1273 CE). Influence:

mainly in Turkey.

Rifa'iyya Founded by Ahmad ibn 'Ali al Rifa'i (d. 1182 CE)

in southern Iraq. Influence: widely practiced across

the Muslim world with a strong presence in Egypt.

Yashrutiyya Founded by 'Ali Nur al Din al Yashruti (d. 1892 CE) in Palestine. Influence: strong presence in Syria and Lebanon.

Badawiyya An Egyptian order founded by the Moroccan saint Ahmad al Badawi (d. 1276 CE), considered by many


the patron saint of Egypt. Influence: active role


Egypt and the Sudan.




Turkish order founded by the Persian saint 'Umar

al Khalwati (d. 1397 CE). Influence: wide presence


the Balkans, Syria, Lebanon and North Africa.

Shi‘a Orders

Irfan Irfan, which means 'knowing' in Arabic and 'most beautiful and knowledgeable person' in Pashto, is Shi‘a mysticism. Mulla Sadr al Din Muhammad Shirazi (1571–1636 CE) from Iran is considered a leading Shia theorist of Irfan.

IIIb. Islamic Fundamentalism

Muslim Brotherhood

The Muslim Brotherhood, or Al-Ikhwan Al-Muslimeen is a transnational Sunni movement, with no particular ideological adherence. It is the largest political op- position organisation in many Arab states, particularly in Egypt where it was founded in opposition to colonial rule by Hassan al Banna in 1928. Al Banna originally sought to revive Muslim culture from its position of exploitation under colonial rule, through charitable and educational work, to bring Islam into a central role in people's life. Sayyid Qutb (1906–1966 CE) was also a leading member of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood in the 50s and 60s.



Wahhabism/Salafism are terms used inter- changeably to refer to a particular brand of Islam. Salaf, meaning predecessors, refers to the very early practice of Islam by Muham- mad and his immediate successors. Salafism seeks to revive the practice of Islam as it was at the time of Muhammad and can be criti- cal of too much emphasis being placed on thinkers from after this period. Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al Wahhab (1703–1792 CE) was an important figure in the resurrection of this ideology therefore Salafism is often simply known as Wahhabism.


Revolutionary Shi'ism

Revolutionary Shi'ism is an ideology, based on the teachings of the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini (1902–1989 CE), which shares many similarities with Marxist revolutionary thought. Khomeini believed that the only way to secure independence from colonial or imperial forces was through the creation of a Shi‘a state, under the idea of Velayat-e Faqih (Guardianship of the Jurist). This means that all politics is subject to the opinion of the Supreme Leader who is responsible for the continued success of the revolution. It is only practiced in Iran.

IIIc. Islamic Modernism

Islamic modernism is a reform movement started by politically-minded urbanites with scant knowledge of traditional Islam. These people had witnessed and studied Western technology and socio-political ideas, and realized that the Islamic world was being left behind technologically by the West and had become too weak to stand up to it. They blamed this weakness on what they saw as ‘traditional Islam,’ which they thought held them back and was not ‘progressive’ enough. They thus called for a complete overhaul of Islam, including—or rather in particular—Islamic law (sharia) and doctrine (aqida). Islamic modernism remains popularly an object of derision and ridicule, and is scorned by traditional Muslims and fundamentalists alike.

The Amman Message Orthodoxy in Islam is based on verse 2:285 of the Holy

The Amman Message

Orthodoxy in Islam is based on verse 2:285 of the Holy Qur’an, and has been best defined by the historical 2005 international Islamic consensus on the ‘three points’ of the Amman Message, these points being:

(a) Whosoever is an adherent to one of the four Sunni schools (mathahib) of Islamic juris-

prudence (Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi‘i and Hanbali), the two Shi‘a schools of Islamic jurispru- dence ( Ja‘fari and Zaydi), the Ibadi school of Islamic jurisprudence and the Thahiri school of Islamic jurisprudence, is a Muslim. Declaring that person an apostate is impossible and impermissible. Verily his (or her) blood, honour, and property are inviolable. Moreover, in accordance with the Sheikh Al-Azhar’s fatwa, it is neither possible nor permissible to declare whosoever subscribes to the Ash’ari creed or whoever practices real Tasawwuf (Sufism) an apostate. Likewise, it is neither possible nor permissible to declare whosoever subscribes to true Salafi thought an apostate. Equally, it is neither possible nor permissible to declare as apostates any group of Mus- lims who believes in God, Glorified and Exalted be He, and His Messenger (may peace and blessings be upon him) and the pillars of faith, and acknowledges the five pillars of Islam, and

does not deny any necessarily self-evident tenet of religion.

(b) There exists more in common between the various schools of Islamic jurisprudence than

there is difference between them. The adherents to the eight schools of Islamic jurisprudence are in agreement as regards the basic principles of Islam. All believe in Allah (God), Glorified and Exalted be He, the One and the Unique; that the Noble Qur’an is the Revealed Word of God; and that our master Muhammad, may blessings and peace be upon him, is a Prophet and Messenger unto all mankind. All are in agreement about the five pillars of Islam: the two testaments of faith (shahadatayn); the ritual prayer (salat); almsgiving (zakat); fasting the month of Ramadan (sawm), and the Hajj to the sacred house of God (in Makkah). All are also in agreement about the foundations of belief: belief in Allah (God), His angels, His scriptures, His messengers, and in the Day of Judgment, in Divine Providence in good and in evil. Disagreements between the ulema (scholars) of the eight schools of Islamic jurispru- dence are only with respect to the ancillary branches of religion ( furu’) and not as regards the principles and fundamentals (usul) [of the religion of Islam]. Disagreement with respect to the ancillary branches of religion ( furu‘) is a mercy. Long ago it was said that variance in opinion among the ulema (scholars) ‘is a good affair’.

(c) Acknowledgement of the schools of Islamic jurisprudence (mathahib) within Islam

means adhering to a fundamental methodology in the issuance of fatwas: no one may issue a fatwa without the requisite personal qualifications which each school of Islamic jurispru-

dence determines [for its own adherents]. No one may issue a fatwa without adhering to the methodology of the schools of Islamic jurisprudence. No one may claim to do unlimited Ijtihad and create a new school of Islamic jurisprudence or to issue unacceptable fatwas that take Muslims out of the principles and certainties of the sharia and what has been established in respect of its schools of jurisprudence.

The Top


The Top 50

1. His Eminence Professor Dr Sheikh Ahmad Muhammad Al-Tayyeb

Grand Sheikh of the Al-Azhar University, Grand Imam of the Al-Azhar Mosque

2. His Majesty King Abdullah II ibn Al-Hussein

King of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, Custodian of the Holy Sites in Jerusalem

3. His Majesty King Salman bin Abdul- Aziz Al-Saud

King of Saudi Arabia, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques

4. His Eminence Grand Ayatollah Hajj Sayyid Ali Khamenei

Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran

5. His Majesty King Mohammed VI

King of Morocco

6. His Eminence Justice Sheikh Muhammad Taqi Usmani

Deobandi Leader

7. His Eminence Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Hussein Sistani

Marja of the Hawza, Najaf, Iraq

8. His Excellency President Recep Tayyip Erdogan

President of the Republic of Turkey

9. His Eminence Sheikh Abdullah Bin Bayyah

President of the Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies

10. Hajji Mohammed Abdul-Wahhab

Amir of Tablighi Jamaat, Pakistan

11. His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Sa’id Al-Sa’id

Sultan of Oman

12. His Highness General Al-Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan

Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces

13. His Excellency President Joko Widodo

President of Indonesia

14. HRH Prince Muhammad bin Naif and HRH Prince Muhammad bin Salman

Crown Prince and Deputy Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia

15. His Eminence Sheikh Abdul-Aziz ibn Abdullah Aal Al-Sheikh

Grand Mufti of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

16. His Eminence Sheikh Ahmad Tijani Ali Cisse

Leader of the Tijaniyya Sufi Order

17. His Excellency President Muhammadu Buhairi

President of Nigeria

18. His Eminence Sheikh Dr Ali Goma’a

Senior Religious Leader

19. Sheikh Salman Al-Ouda

Saudi Scholar and Educator

20. Dr KH Said Aqil Siradj

Chairman of Indonesia’s Nahdlatul Ulama

21. His Excellency President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi

President of the Arab Republic of Egypt

22. His Royal Eminence Amirul Mu’minin Sheikh As-Sultan Muhammadu Sa’adu Abubakar III

Sultan of Sokoto

23. Mufti Muhammad Akhtar Raza Khan Qadiri Al-Azhari

Barelwi Leader and Spiritual Guide

24. His Eminence Mohammad bin Mohammad Al-Mansour

Imam of the Zaidi Sect of Shi‘a Muslims

25. Sheikh Al-Habib Umar bin Hafiz

Director of Dar Al Mustafa, Tarim, Yemen

26. Her Eminence Sheikha Munira Qubeysi

Leader of the Qubeysi Movement

27. His Excellency Rached Ghannouchi

Tunisian Politician

28. His Highness Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani

Emir of Qatar

29. Dr Amr Khaled

Preacher and Social Activist

30. His Excellency President Mahmoud Abbas

President of Palestine

31. Sheikh Dr Yusuf Al-Qaradawi

Head of the International Union of Muslim Scholars

32. Her Majesty Queen Rania Al-Abdullah

Queen of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan

33. Sheikh Hamza Yusuf Hanson

Founder of Zaytuna Institute, United States of America

34. Sheikh Moez Masoud

Preacher and Televangelist

35. Seyyed Hasan Nasrallah

Secretary General of Hezbollah

36. Sheikh Habib Ali Zain Al-Abideen Al-Jifri

Director General of the Tabah Foundation, UAE

37. His Royal Highness Shah Karim Al-Hussayni

The Aga Khan

38. His Excellency Shaykh Ibrahim Salih

The Grand Mufti of Nigeria

39. Maulana Mahmood Madani

Leader and Executive Member of Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind, India

40. Professor Dr Seyyed Hossein Nasr

Islamic Philosopher

41. Professor Dr M Din Syamsuddin

Former Chairman of Muhammadiyya, Indonesia

42. His Highness Amir Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum

Ruler of Dubai and the Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates.

43. Sheikh Usama Al-Sayyid Al-Azhari

Islamic Preacher, Egypt

44. Khaled Mashal

Leader of Hamas

45. Habib Luthfi Yahya

Ra’is ‘Amm of the Jam’iyyah Ahli Thariqah al-Mu’tabarah al-Nahdliyah, Indonesia

46. Sheikh Abdul-Malik Al-Houthi (new)

Leader of the Houthi Movement

47. Shaykh Mustafa Hosny (new)

Egyptian Televangelist and Islamic Preacher

48. Hodjaefendi Fethullah Gülen

Turkish Muslim Preacher

49. Shaykh Mahmud Effendi (new)

Turkish Muslim Spiritual Leader

50. His Excellency Dr Aref Nayed

Scholar and Libyan Ambassador to the UAE

Country: Egypt Born: 1946 (Age 70) Source of Influence: Administrative Influence: Highest scholarly author- ity for the majority of Sunni Muslims, runs the foremost and largest Sunni Islamic university. School of Thought: Traditional Sunni

2011 Rank: 7

2012 Rank: 8

2013 Rank: 1

2014/15 Rank: 2

2016 Rank: 2

“The unity between the Muslims and Coptic Christians of Egypt is something of absolute importance.” Sheikh Al-Tayyeb

The Muslim Council of El- ders was formed in 2014, and consists of 14 members who are headed by Sheikh Ahmed Al-Tayyeb. The council fo- cuses on countering dis- torted teachings of Islam by relying on the traditional understanding expounded by Al-Alzhar. It thus opposes religious extremism and vio- lence, and works to spread peace in the Islamic world and beyond.

© Amr Sharaf / AP


His Eminence Professor

Dr Sheikh Ahmad Muhammad Al-Tayyeb

His Eminence Professor Dr Sheikh Ahmad Muhammad Al-Tayyeb

Grand Sheikh of the Al-Azhar University, Grand Imam of Al- Azhar Mosque

Sheikh Ahmad Muhammad al-Tayyeb was appointed as Grand Sheikh of al-Azhar in March 2010, after the passing of his predecessor, Dr Muhammad Sayyid Tantawi. Tayyeb was for- merly the president of al-Azhar for seven years and prior to that, served for two years as the most powerful cleric in Egypt as its Grand Mufti.

Scholarly Influence: His scholarly influence as a leading intellectual of Sunni Islam spans the globe. He has served as the Dean of the Faculty of Islamic Studies in Aswan, and the theology faculty of the International Islamic University in Pakistan. He has also taught in universities in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates.

Political Stance: Over the past years of political uncertainty and unrest in Egypt and in particular during the months that led up to the Egyptian armed forces deposing Muhammad Morsi as President of Egypt, Tayyeb attempted to mediate between Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood-dominated government on the one hand and opposition political forces on the other. It was the only time Morsi and the opposition sat together and given their mutual intransigence, Tayyeb’s attempt at mediation did not succeed. But even before this Tayyeb was the object of Muslim Brotherhood hostility precisely because of his defence of traditional Islam (including its spiritual (Sufi) dimension) in the face of the Muslim Brotherhood’s effort to transform Islam from a religion into a power seeking religious ideology.

Tayyeb has been active in trying to diffuse the influence of DA’ISH, organizing many initiatives and conferences. He has also tried to improve foreign relations and accepted an invitation to meet Pope Francis in the Vatican in May 2016.

Advocate of Traditional Islam: Sheikh Tayyeb has emphasized his mission to promote traditional Islam since becoming Grand Sheikh. He has stressed the importance of teaching students about Islamic herit- age — considering al-Azhar graduates as ambassadors of Islam to the world. In an age where the claimants to authoritative Islam seem to be on every corner Sheikh

Tayyeb has both the institute and the personal skills to authentically claim to be a representative of traditional Islam, Islam as practiced by the majority of Muslims throughout the ages. On 29 August 2016 during the World Islamic Conference held in Grozny, Chechnya, Sheikh Tayyeb, defined the Sunni community (Ahla Sunnah wa Jama’a) as those who follow Imam Abul- Hasan al-Ash’ari and Imam Abu Mansur al-Maturidi and the scholars of Hanafi, Maliki, and Shafi'i juris- prudence, as well as the moderate scholars of Hanbali school. He also included the Sufis following in the way of Imam al-Junayd.

Leader of al-Azhar University: Sheikh Tayyeb leads the second-oldest university in the world, where teaching has continued without interruption since 975 CE. Al-Azhar represents the centre of Sunni Islamic jurisprudence. It is a key institution that issues au- thoritative religious rulings and has provided extensive Islamic education to Egyptian and international stu- dents since its inception over a millennium ago. This history makes it a bastion of Sunni traditionalism. The university is considered one of the most prominent Islamic educational institutions, and the foremost centre of Sunni Muslim scholarship worldwide.

Administers Al-Azhar Education Network: Al- Azhar is currently the largest university in the world, having risen from a group of three schools in the 1950s to its current state with 72 feeder schools, and close to 300,000 students studying there at any one time. Including schools that are part of Al-Azhar waqf initiatives, there are close to 2 million students. The graduates of Al-Azhar have great respect as religious leaders within the Muslim community, and this makes the head of al-Azhar an extraordinarily powerful and influential person.

Country : Jordan Born : 30 Jan 1962 (Age 54) Source of Influence : Political,

Country: Jordan Born: 30 Jan 1962 (Age 54) Source of Influence: Political, Lineage Influence: King with authority over approximately 7 million Jordanians and outreach to Traditional Islam School of Thought: Traditional Sunni

2011: 4

2012: 7

2013: 4

2014/15: 4

2016: 1

41 st

generation direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad

“Blowing up buses will not induce the Israelis to move forward, and neither will the killing of Palestinians or the demolition of their homes and their future. All this needs to stop. And we pledge that Jordan will do its utmost to help achieve it.” King Abdullah II


His Majesty

King Abdullah II ibn Al-Hussein

His Majesty King Abdullah II Ibn Al-Hussein

King of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, Custodian of the Holy Sites in Jerusalem

Eye of Two Hurricanes: HM King Abdullah II has become a central figure in the two most consequential conflicts in the Islamic World: the conflict over Palestine and the conflict in Syria and Iraq with DA’ISH. The King is thus in the eye of two hurricanes.

Jordan controls the southern flank of Syria and the southwestern flank of Iraq. With the Kurds now limiting DA’ISH’s ambitions to the north; Iran and Shia Iraq limiting them to the east; and with DA’ISH coming up against the rebels in the northwest and the Alawite/Hizbollah strongholds in the southwest, the crucial upcoming stage of the conflict will very much depend on King Abdullah II and Jordan. Jordan stands literally and figuratively between DA’ISH and Saudi Arabia—especially since Saudi Arabia is currently occupied with another war to its south, in the Yemen. As Jordan goes, so will go Saudi Arabia, and then the rest of the Islamic World.

Jordan is also the frontline Arab-Islamic state with Israel; the one with the largest border and one of only two states (the other being Egypt) with a finalised peace treaty with Israel. The King is using his inherited peace treaty with Israel to mediate a solution between Israel and Palestine and to protect the Holy Al-Aqsa Mosque and Compound of which he is the Official Custodian.

Finally, Jordan stands at the greatest geographical crossroads in the world—the land crossroad between Asia, Africa and Europe. It is also wedged between Mecca and Medina to the south and Jerusalem to the west, and therefore is part of the blessed land that the Qur’an mentions (Al-Isra, 17:1) as being ‘around’ the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Classically, it was at the crossroads and trade routes of the great ancient high civilizations:

Sumer and Babylon; Persia; Egypt and Greek and Ro- man amongst others. Today, it stands at the crossroads between five different and competing larger regional powers: Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Israel, Turkey to the north and Iran to the east. What Jordan does (and what happens to Jordan) will tip the balance between these powers one way or another—or will keep the healthy buffer between them.

Politically and religiously the King represents the exact antithesis of DA’ISH. Though the King is not a religious scholar and personally very discrete in his piety, he— and the Jordanian religious establishment—never stray from traditional Hanafi/Shafi’i Orthodoxy, in contrast to the free-wheeling, anti-madhhabism of Wahhabism and Syed Qutb thought. In even starker contrast (to the takfirism of DA’ISH) is King Abdullah’s traditional ‘big tent’ plural vision of Islam—as seen in the historical consensus on ‘the Amman Message’ in 2004-2005, which he personally spearheaded (see below).

Personally also, the polarity could not be more marked. King Abdullah’s humane, open, friendly, modest, honest, and compassionate style of rule could not be more different from the brutal barbarity and decep- tive titanic pretences and propaganda flowing out of DA’ISH. The king is also Western-educated (he attended Sandhurst, and studied at Georgetown and Oxford Universities and has honorary PhDs from both), and he is openly comfortable with all cultures. This is in stark contrast to DA’ISH s schizophrenic anti-western vitriol on the one hand and its addic- tion to Western information technology, movies and video-games on the other. Finally, the king is a quiet but committed family-values man with one wife (see entry on HM Queen Rania) and four children—the exact antipode of DA’ISH with their sanctimonious sexual enslavement and rape of women and their free jihadi-wife inter-circulation.

Perhaps the only thing King Abdullah has in common with DA’ISH is that he is ready for war, having been a professional soldier and Commander of the Jordanian Special Forces before becoming king. But even then, his vision of war—as a defensive necessity and not as a means to eliminate those with different views—is a far more humane and regulated one than that of DA’ISH’s.

HM King Abdullah II is the constitutional monarch of the Hashemite King- dom of Jordan, and the Supreme Com- mander of the Jordan Arab Army: report- edly the best army, man for man, in the Arab World. He is also the Custodian of the Muslim and Christian Holy Sites

in Jerusalem. March 2013 saw the signing of a historic

treaty which officially reaffirmed the Hashemite King- dom of Jordan’s custodianship of the Holy Sites of Jerusalem. The treaty was signed by HM King Abdullah

II and HE President Mahmoud Abbas of the State of

Palestine. This treaty makes formal a situation which has existed since 1924 and enables both countries to jointly legally protect the Holy Sites in Jerusalem against official and unofficial Israeli incursions, de- struction and illegal annexation.

Israeli incursions, de- struction and illegal annexation. Prophetic Lineage: King Abdullah II is a 41st generation

Prophetic Lineage: King Abdullah II is a 41st generation direct descendant of the Prophet Mu- hammad through the line of the Prophet’s grandson Al-Hasan. The Hashemite Family, the Hashemites or Banu Hashem, are descendants of the Arab Chieftain Quraysh, a descendant of the Prophet Ismail, son of the Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham). Hashem was the Prophet Muhammad’s great-grandfather, thus the Hashemites are direct descendants of the Prophet through his daughter Fatima and her husband Ali ibn Abi Taleb, who was the Prophet’s paternal first cousin and the fourth Caliph of Islam. The Hashemite Dynasty is the oldest ruling dynasty in the Islamic World, and the second-oldest in the world, after that of Japan. As the current bearer of the Hashemite legacy, HM King Abdullah II has a unique prestige in the Islamic World.

Majalla Law: 80% of Jordan’s laws are based on the Ottoman Majalla and hence on traditional Hanafi Shari’a. Jordan has a Chief Mufti; official Muftis in every province; Army and Police Grand Muftis and

Shari’a Courts for all personal status issues for Muslims (such as marriage, divorce, inheritance and so on). Yet it has Orthodox-Priest-run courts for its native Christian population in Christian personal status issues, and Jordan guarantees Christian seats in the Parliament and de facto at every level of government.

It has civil law for all citizens and additional tribal

laws and customs for tribesmen and tribeswomen (who make up over half the native population). Jordan does not have corporeal punishment; it has capital

punishment for murder and other capital offenses. However, with the exception of two terrorism offenses and nine particularly horrendous murders, the King has suspended capital punishment since March 2006 whilst instituting a comprehensive program of judicial retraining and reform. Abd Al-Razzaq Sanhouri, the great Egyptian Islamic Constitutional Scholar of the Twentieth Century, described Jordan’s basic laws and Constitution as the most traditionally Islamic in the world.

International Influence: HM King Abdullah II has effectively promoted Jordan’s positive moderating role not only in the Arab and Muslim Worlds but also in the world at large. He has worked tirelessly towards the establishment of a just and lasting comprehensive solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict and established Jordan’s role as a regional power broker. He has also reached far beyond his borders to East Africa, East Asia and Central and South America. King Abdullah is now the third longest-serving of the leaders of the 21 Arab States—behind Oman’s Sultan Qaboos and Sudan’s President Bashir—ruling for over 16 years. This longevity in office—and accumulated experi- ence and contacts—has led to an increased influence internationally.

Reformer: HM King Abdullah’s progressive vision for Jordan is based on political openness, economic and social development, and the Islamic values of goodwill and tolerance. Under his reign, and during the Arab Spring, Jordan has witnessed sweeping constitutional changes (one third of the Constitution was amended), and political and social reforms aimed at increasing governmental transparency and accountability. Jordan does not have a single political prisoner, and there are several vibrant opposition currents in Jordan. The advancement of civil liberties and the efforts to institutionalize democratic and political pluralism in Jordan under King Abdullah II have made Jordan one of the most progressive and stable countries in the Middle East.

King Abdullah has always been particularly inter- ested in economic reform and development in Jordan. Among his most successful economic initiatives over the years are Free Trade Agreements with the US (which has led to job-creating Free Trade Zones inside Jordan); the Aqaba Special Economic Zone (which has led to billions of dollars in investment and trade in the port city of Aqaba; the computer-literacy educational initiative (which has made Jordan a leading hub regionally and even worldwide in the IT sector); and the Affordable Housing Project (which has led to tens of thousands of new homes for Jordanians). In his quest to make Jordan economically prosperous, King

Abdullah has convened the World Economic Forum (WEF) many times in Jordan and tirelessly tried to improve the Jordanian economic climate for investors.

Islamic Outreach: In response to growing Islamo- phobia in the West in the wake of 9/11 and rising sectarian strife, King Abdullah II launched the Am- man Message initiative (see page 43), which was unanimously adopted by the Islamic World’s political and temporal leaderships. In total, over 500 leading Muslim scholars endorsed the Amman Message and its three points. This was an unprecedented historic religious and political consensus (ijma’) of the Islamic Ummah (nation) in modern times, and a consolida- tion of traditional, orthodox Islam. King Abdullah II is also credited with the Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought’s most authoritative website on the Holy Qur’an and Tafsir ( He also founded the new World Islamic Sciences and Education University in Jordan ( in 2008. In 2012, King Abdullah II set up integrated professorial chairs for the study of the work of Imam Ghazali at the Aqsa Mosque and Imam Razi at the King Hussein Mosque. And in 2014, he established a fellowship for the study of love in religion at Regent’s Park College, Oxford University.

Interfaith Outreach: HM King Abdullah II is also lauded as an interfaith leader for his support of the 2007 A Common Word initiative—a groundbreaking initiative in Christian-Muslim engagement (www. He was also the initiator and

driving force behind the UN World Interfaith Har- mony Week Resolution (see www.worldinterfaith-, marking the first week of Feb- ruary as an annual celebration of peace and harmony between faiths. He also set up the King Abdullah II Prize for the best event worldwide during that week. In 2014 HM King Abdullah hosted HH Pope Francis in Jordan (having previously hosted both HH Pope Benedict XVI and HH Pope John Paul II). In 2015 the Baptism Site of Jesus Christ on Jordan’s River Bank was unanimously voted a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Thus, at the same time that DA’ISH was destroying Syria and Iraq’s historical and archaeological treasures, King Abdullah was preserving not just Muslim Holy Sites, but Christian Holy Sites and universal historical treasures as well. The King was also active in trying to protect the minority religious communities not just in Jordan, but in Syria, Iraq and Palestine.

Safe Haven: Jordan has around 2 million registered and unregistered refugees from Syria and Iraq and other regional conflicts (such as Libya and Yemen), in addition to around 2 million refugees from the Palestine conflict. Jordan is the largest refugee host in the world, and by far the largest host per capita and per population. It bears this burden largely alone. Despite its paucity of resources, Jordan has welcomed and accommodated a staggering number of refugees and is seen by many as the most stable country in a turbulent region. Jordan houses Za’atari Camp, the second largest refugee camp in the world.

Hashemite Flag: Symbolism and Explanation

1. It contains the Shahadatayn. The Shahadatayn are the words of salvation (al-kalimah al-munjiyah), and the words of Truth. The Shahadatayn are the great message of Islam and the creed of Muslims.

2. It starts with the Basmallah. Every act that does not begin with the Basmallah is ‘cut off ’ (abtar). The Basmallah is the symbol of action, but also of mercy, because it contains God’s Names of Mercy: Al-Rahman (The Compassionate) and Al-Raheem (The Merciful).

3. It ends with the Hamdallah. Every act that does not end with the Hamdallah is deficient. The Hamdallah is the symbol

all that is

of contentment in God (rida billah). God says:

therein proclaim His praise

(Al-Isra’, 17:44).

4. It contains the first two verses of the Qur’an; they are the es- sence of the Qur’an. Together these two verses are the symbol of life itself which must start with the Basmallah and end with the Hamdallah. Between these two verses is the substance of life, i.e. that ‘there is no god but God and Muhammad is the Messenger of God’.

5. The Basmallah and the Hamdallah also symbolize the beginning and the end, i.e. the dunya and the akhira. God says: Their prayer therein: ‘Glory be to You, O God!’, and their greeting therein will be: ‘Peace’. And their final prayer will be:

‘Praise be to God, Lord of the Worlds’.

6. It contains the colour red: the colour of the Jordanian shmagh; the colour of the blood of martyrs; the colour of legitimate jihad and the colour of Jordanians’ love for their country.

7. It contains the seven-pointed star which symbolizes the seven oft-repeated verses (al-sab’a al-mathani) and the Islamic Hashemite Monarchy.

8. It contains a circle which symbolizes inclusiveness, signifying that every citizen is protected and included in Jordan. The star and circle also symbolize men and women.

9. The calligraphy is thuluth, which is the most beautiful style of traditional Arabic calligraphy.

men and women. 9. The calligraphy is thuluth , which is the most beautiful style of


© Hassan Ammar / AP

Country: Saudi Arabia Born: 31 December 1935 (Age 80) Source of Influence: Political Influence: King with authority over 26 million residents of Saudi Arabia and approximately 14 million pilgrims annually. School of Thought: Moderate Salafi

2016 Rank: 3

“Every citizen in our country and every part of our dear land has all my attention and care. ” King Salman bin Abdul Aziz Al- Saud

$32 bil

King’s post-coronation giveaways

$265 mil

for a Yemen relief centre

giveaways $265 m i l for a Yemen relief centre � 3 � His Majesty King


His Majesty

King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al-Saud

His Majesty King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al-Saud

King of Saudi Arabia, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques

HM King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al-Saud was proclaimed the seventh king of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in January 2015, after the passing of King Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz. He had previously held the position of Crown Prince since June 2012. King Salman’s influence comes from being the absolute monarch of the most powerful Arab nation and is manifested by the role Saudi Arabia plays in three critical areas: 1. having the two holy cities of Makkah and Madina, which millions of Muslims visit throughout the year; 2. exporting crude oil and refined petroleum products, which ensures its central international role, and 3. propagating Islam through its huge da’wa network, which makes its influence felt in all Muslim countries.

Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques: HM King Salman has significant influence in the global Muslim community through his custodianship of the two holy cities of Makkah and Madina. Makkah is the main pilgrimage site for 1.7 billion Muslims. Each year ap- proximately 4 million pilgrims perform the Hajj. In addition to this, approximately 10 million pilgrims (including Saudi residents and GCC citizens) perform the umrah, ‘the lesser Hajj’, throughout the year. A multi-billion dollar expansion to the two mosques is well under way.

Controller of the World’s Largest Oil Re- serves: HM King Salman reigns over a land of massive crude oil reserves—Saudi Arabia has approximately 20 percent of the world’s proven oil reserves—making him a key player in the global petroleum industry.

Head of the World’s Largest Da’wa Network:

King Salman is also head of the most extensive da’wa network of missionary Muslims in the world, promot- ing the Salafi brand of Islam. Salafism is historically rooted in Saudi Arabia, and owes its global spread to the financial backing of Saudi Arabia.

Successful Governor: King Salman was governor of Riyadh Province from 1955-60 and from 1963-2011. During that period, he oversaw the development of the capital city Riyadh from a small town into a thriv- ing city of more than 7 million people. He played a major role in attracting capital projects and foreign investment into his country and improved political and economic relationships with the West. He built up a strong reputation for having an efficient and corruption-free administration

Services and Awards: King Salman has been rec- ognised for his various humanitarian services by the United Nations, Bahrain, Bosnia and Herzegovina, France, Morocco, Palestine, the Philippines, Senegal and Yemen amongst other countries. He was also awarded the Kant Medal by the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities in appreciation of his contributions to science.

Military Action: In March 2015, King Salman launched a nine-state coalition bombing campaign against Houthi rebels in Yemen. The campaign is seen by many as curbing Iranian influence in the region. Saudi Arabia is also supporting many of the anti-Assad factions in Syria.

Key Appointments: King Salman has made im- portant decisions regarding appointments in key positions. The most important of these was the ap- pointment of HRH Prince Muhammad bin Naif as Crown Prince. This marks the first time that a grandson of King Abdul-Aziz, rather than a son, has held the position. The transfer of power to the new generation, which some feared would be an issue that would split the country, has been remarkably smooth. King Salman also promoted one of his sons, HRH Prince Muhammad bin Salman, to Defence Minister and Deputy Crown Prince. This came as a surprise ap- pointment, as the king has older and more experienced sons. Another surprise was the appointment of Adel Al-Jubeir, someone who is not a member of the Saudi royal family, as Foreign Minister.

Country: Iran Born: 17 July 1939 (Age 77) Source of Influence: Political, Ad- ministrative Influence: Supreme Leader of 77.7. million Iranians School of Thought: Traditional Twelver Shi‘a, Revolutionary Shi’ism

2011 Rank: 5

2012 Rank: 6

2013 Rank: 3

2014/15 Rank: 3

2016 Rank: 4

“Mass killings of human beings are catastrophic acts which are condemned wherever they may happen and whoever the perpetra- tors and the victims may be.” Ayatollah Khamenei


The number of years Khamenei has ruled over Iran as the Supreme Leader, being only the second leader in the 34 years since the Iranian Revolution in 1979.

6 times

Was imprisoned 6 times between 1962 and 1975 for his activities against the government.

1962 and 1975 for his activities against the government. � 4 � His Excellency, Grand Ayatollah


His Excellency, Grand Ayatollah

Sayyid Ali Khamenei

His Eminence Grand Ayatollah Hajj Sayyid Ali Khamenei

Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran

Grand Ayatollah Khamenei is the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran. He was born in Mashhad, and studied in the leading Iranian religious seminary in Qom, before becoming involved in the struggle with the Pahlavi Regime in the sixties and seventies. He was a key figure in the revolution in 1979 and served as President between 1981-1989 before succeeding Ayatollah Khomeini as Supreme Leader upon the latter's death. He has vocally supported most of the unrest in the Arab World, likening it to the Iranian Revolution.

Champion of Iranian Solidarity: Although Khamenei was initially criticized for endorsing the June 2009 re-election of President Mahmoud Ah- madinejad, he has been acclaimed for his response to the post-election turmoil. He ordered the closing of the Kahrizak detention centre in response to reports of prisoner abuse and death. He is a strong advocate of Iran’s right to develop a nuclear program.

Supreme Leader, Velayat-e Faqih: Khamenei’s current influence stems from his powerful position as a religious leader, which gives him a unique role in political affairs. His job is to enact the Velayat-e Faqih—the guardianship of the jurist. In real terms this means a system where scholars of fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) have a controlling say in the political affairs of the state. The rule of the jurist was a concept created by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, based on ideas that have run through Iranian political history since the time of Shah Ismail—who was the first to make Shia Islam the national religion of Iran. It was conceived in a battle against oppression as a way of safeguarding the Iranian nation from tyranny; giv- ing the final say in all matters to a group of religious scholars, the Council of Guardians. This Council is headed by a chief arbitrator—the Supreme Leader.

Leader of Shi‘a Revolution: Khamenei gains much of his influence in Iran from his role as a leader of the Islamic Revolution in Iran. The Islamic Republic of Iran was forged out of the 1979 Revolution. Combat- ing what many saw as the tyrannical rule of the Shah, Khamenei joined the Society of Combatant Clergy that staged demonstrations mobilizing many of the protests leading to the Shah’s overthrow. After the revolution in 1979, Khamenei was one of the founding members of the Islamic Republic Party, and a member of the assembly of experts that was responsible for drafting Iran’s new constitution.

Light shines through a window in Nasīr al-Mulk Mosque aka “Pink Mosque” | Shiraz

Sunni-Shia Reconciliation: On September 2, 2010 Khamenei issued a historic fatwa banning the insult of any symbol that Sunnis hold to be dear, including but not limited to the companions and wives of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). This fatwa was received with great appreciation by the Chancellor of Al-Azhar University, Shaykh Ahmad al-Tayyeb.

This fatwa was received with great appreciation by the Chancellor of Al-Azhar University, Shaykh Ahmad al-Tayyeb.


Country: Morocco Born: 21 Aug 1963 (Age 53) Source of Influence: Political, Admin- istrative, Development Influence: King with authority over 32 million Moroccans School of Thought: Traditional Sunni, Maliki

2011 Rank: 2

2012 Rank: 3

2013 Rank: 5

2014/15 Rank: 5

2016 Rank: 5

“By the grace of the Almighty, Morocco has made substantial progress. Our vision is clear and our institutions are strong, thanks to the powers they have under the rule of law.” King Mohammed VI


The number of years since the found- ing of the Alouite dynasty, when its founder, Moulay Ali Cherif, became Prince of Tafilalt in 1631.

98.5 %

The percentage of citizens who voted for the recommended changes to the constitution that King Mohammed proposed in July 2011, which reduced his powers as king.

proposed in July 2011, which reduced his powers as king. � 5 � His Majesty Amir


His Majesty Amir al-Mu’minin

King Mohammed VI

His Majesty King Mohammed VI

King of Morocco

King Mohammed VI is a direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and his family has ruled Morocco for close to 400 years. He is also constitutionally the Amir al-Mu’minin, or Commander of the Faithful, thereby combining religious and political authority. King Mohammed VI is lauded for his domestic reform policies and pioneering efforts in mod- ernizing Morocco and countering terrorism. He tackles issues of poverty, vulnerability and social exclusion at home, and has improved foreign relations. King Mohammed VI influ- ences the network of Muslims following the Maliki school of Islamic jurisprudence, and is a leading monarch in Africa.

Four-Hundred Year Alaouite Dynasty: The 400 year-old Alaouite dynasty traces its lineage back to the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). It takes its name from Moulay Ali Cherif, who became Prince of Tafilalt in 1631. It sees itself as a continuation of the Andalusian Golden Age of Islam, which was characterised by peaceful co-existence, intellectual and cultural ex- change and development.

to address the question of the treatment of religious minorities in Muslim-majority communities. Basing themselves on the Charter of Medina, also known as the Constitution of Medina, which was drawn up by

the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) himself, they issued

gather for a 3-day summit in Marrakesh in January 2016

The Marrakesh Declaration: The King invited hundreds of the Islamic world’s leading scholars to

lam through West Africa.

Influence on Maliki Network: Morocco is home

to the oldest university in the world, Al- Karaouine.

This university is the centre of the Maliki school of ju- risprudence. Since early in his reign, King Mohammed

VI has implemented the Mudawana family law code

that gives rights to women in divorce and property ownership, as well as citizenship to children born from non-Moroccan fathers. He has also commissioned the Islamic Affairs Ministry to train women preachers, or Morchidat, who are now active chaplains to Moroc- cans across the globe.

calls for majority-Muslim communities to respect mi- norities’ “freedom of movement, property ownership,

mutual solidarity and defense.”. HM King Mohammed

VI of Morocco delivered the inaugural address and

pointed to the history of Islam’s co-existence with other religions. This showed how Islam has enshrined the rights of religious minorities, and promoted reli- gious tolerance and diversity. (see page 49)

Support for Jerusalem (Al-Quds): The King and indeed all Moroccans show strong support for Palestinians and for Jerusalem. The Moroccan link with Jerusalem has been strong since Salah al-Din's son endowed the Magharbeh Quarter, next to the Buraq Wall, to North African pilgrims in 1193. This 800 year old quarter was demolished by the Israeli authorities

in 1967 after they captured East Jerusalem.

Reform: King Mohammed VI has implemented major reforms in response to the Arab Spring protests. These have included a new constitution which has transferred many powers to a freely and fairly elected government. The gradual reforms of the King have been hailed as a model for other Arab countries to follow.

Huge Influence over Muslims in Africa: King Mohammed VI leads the largest African monarchy,

with a population of 32 million. Besides political links, Morocco maintains strong spiritual ties with Muslims

all over Africa. Morocco is the site of the tomb of

a highly revered Sufi sheikh, Mawlana Ahmed ibn Mohammed Tijani al-Hassani-Maghribi (1735-1815 CE), the founder of the Tijaniyya Sufi order, whose shrine attracts millions from

across the conti- nent. Morocco is also recognized as a source for the spread of Is-

Al-Karaouine in Fez, established in 859 by Fatima Al-Fihria, was a cen- tre for both religious and secular subjects for over 1,100 years. During the Middle Ages many Europeans studied here and then returned to spread mathematics, astronomy, and other sciences to Europe.


Country: Pakistan Born: 5 October 1943 (age 73) Source of Influence: Scholarly, Lineage Influence: Leading scholar for the Deobandis and in Islamic finance. School of Thought: Traditional Sunni (Hanafi, Deobandi)

2011 Rank: 32

2012 Rank: 32

2013 Rank: 25

2014/15 Rank: 19

2016 Rank: 22

“Since wealth is the property of God, humanity does not have autonomy in this ownership but through the specific path He has instituted in the Islamic Shari ‘ah.” Sheikh Taqi Usmani

$1.14 tril

The current worth of the global Islamic financial services market.


The number of students at Darul Uloom, Karachi.

10,000 The number of students at Darul Uloom, Karachi. � 6 � His Eminence Justice Sheikh


His Eminence Justice

Sheikh Muhammad Taqi Usmani

His Eminence Justice Sheikh

Deobandi Leader

Muhammad Taqi Usmani

Justice Sheikh Muhammad Taqi Usmani is a leading scholar of Islamic jurisprudence. He is considered to be the intellectual leader of the Deobandi movement. He served as Judge of the Shariat Appellate Bench of the Supreme Court of Pakistan from 1982 to May 2002. He specialises in Islamic jurisprudence and financial matters.

Deobandi Figurehead: Usmani is very important as

a figurehead in the Deobandi movement—one of the

most successful of the Islamic revivalist initiatives of

the past century. Usmani was born in Deoband, India, to Mufti Muhammad Shafi (the former Grand Mufti of Pakistan) who founded the Darul ‘Uloom, Karachi,

a leading centre of Islamic education in Pakistan. He

has authority to teach hadith from Sheikhul Hadith Moulana Zakariya Khandelawi amongst others, and he traversed the spiritual path of Tasawwuf under the guidance of Sheikh Dr. Abdul Hayy Arifi, a student of the founder of Deoband, Moulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi. It is estimated that over 65% of all madrassas in Paki- stan are Deobandi as well as 600 of the 1500 mosques in the UK. Deobandis consider themselves orthodox Hanafi Sunnis. They rely heavily on the writings of the 18th century scholar Shah Walliullah Dehlvi.

Leading Islamic Finance Scholar: Usmani’s chief influence comes from his position as a global author- ity on the issue of Islamic finance. He has served on the boards, and as chairman, of over a dozen Islamic banks and financial institutions, and currently leads the International Shariah Council for the Accounting and Auditing Organization for Islamic Financial Insti-

tutions (AAOIFI) in Bahrain. He is also a permanent member of the International Islamic Fiqh Academy of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, one of the highest legal bodies in the Muslim world.

Writer: He is the Chief Editor of both the Urdu and English monthly magazine ‘Albalagh’, and regularly contributes articles to leading Pakistani newspapers on a range of issues. He has authored more than 60 books in Arabic, English, and Urdu.

New Works: He is directly supervising The Hadith Encyclopedia, a compilation which will provide a universal number to each Hadith in a manner that will make referencing any Hadith as easy as it is to

refer to an Ayat of the Quran. The Encyclopedia will

be over 300 volumes.

A second major work being undertaken is entitled

The Jurisprudence (Fiqh) of Trade.The Book concludes

with a proposed Code of Islamic Law of Sale of Goods and Transfer of Property, that serves as a powerful “Call to Action” for regulators and standard setting organizations alike.


Country: Iraq Born: 4 Aug 1930 (Age 86) Source of Influence: Scholarly, Lineage Influence: Highest authority for 21 mil- lion Iraqi Shi‘a, and also internationally known as a religious authority to Usuli Twelver Shi‘a. School of Thought: Traditional Twelver Shi‘a, Usuli

2011 Rank: 10

2014/15 Rank: 7

2012 Rank: 13

2012 Rank: 13

2013 Rank: 8

“Do not refer to the Sunnis as our other brothers, but refer to them as ‘Us’.” Ayatollah Sistani


The number of students that Sistani supports in Iran.


The number of years since he ascended to the rank of Grand Ayatollah.

of years since he ascended to the rank of Grand Ayatollah. � 7 � His Eminence


His Eminence Grand Ayatollah

Sayyid Ali Hussein Sistani

His Eminence Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Hussein Sistani

Marja of the Hawza, Najaf, Iraq

Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Hussein Sistani is the prime marja, or spiritual reference for Ithna’Ashari‘a (Twelver) Shi‘a Muslims. He is the leading sheikh of the Hawza Seminary in Najaf, Iraq and the preeminent Shi‘a cleric globally. Sistani is one of the most respected of the marjaiyya—the highest position of authority in the Usuli school of Twelver Shi‘a fiqh.

Preeminent Shi‘a Cleric and Marja Taqlid:

Sistani’s influence in the Twelver Shi‘a sect stems from his scholarly lineage and education, which have enabled him to reach the status of marja taqlid—the highest status in the Usuli branch of Twelver Shi‘a Is- lam. Marja taqlid means literally one who is worthy of being imitated— placing Sistani in a position of great authority over Twelver Shi‘a Muslims. There are cur- rently only 29 marjas worldwide. Sistani is descended from a family of religious scholars, and was educated in the leading institutions in Iran. He later went to Najaf, Iraq to study under the Grand Ayatollah Abu al-Qasim al-Khoei. On Khoei’s death in 1992, Sistani took over as grand ayatollah, inheriting Khoei’s following. He soon rose to become the leading cleric in Iraq. With the recent opening of Iraqi shrines to Iranian tourists, Sistani is gaining a following outside of Iraq.

Financial Influence: Sistani also has very significant financial clout due to his position as marja. As a marja his followers give him a religious tax (khums, Arabic for one fifth). The redistribution of this tax for the com- mon good is one of the key roles of a marja. Much of this remittance is redistributed through the Al-Khoei Foundation—the largest Twelver Shi‘a development organization in the world that maintains a network

of educational and humanitarian establishments for both Shi‘a and non-Shi‘a Muslims.

Quietist Influence: Significantly, Sistani is against the idea of Velayat-e Faqih, suggesting Shi‘a clerics should not get involved in politics. Paradoxically this approach has afforded him very strong influ- ence as a religious leader unsullied by politics. Ali Sistani has used his position of quietist authority to wield influence also as a peacemaker in the turbulent post-invasion Iraq. At a time when Sistani was losing support to Sheikh Muqtada al-Sadr, he showed his sway by arranging a lasting deal between Sadr and US forces at the Imam Ali Shrine in Najaf in 2005—a deal that secured the Shrine and pushed for an American retreat. Sistani was vocal about encouraging Iraqis to participate in the 2010 parliamentary elections. He strongly condemned the Baghdad church attack in October 2010 and also advised Iraqi security forces to take more responsibility for the protection of Iraqi citizens. He has strongly supported the new prime minister of Iraq, Haydar al-Abadi, asking him to form an inclusive, strong and efficient government. He has also issued strong statements against DA’ISH, calling on Iraqis to unite against the militants.

DA’ISH, calling on Iraqis to unite against the militants. Tile-work containing the names of the family

Tile-work containing the names of the family of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) at the Imam Ali Mosque in Najaf, Iraq.

Country: Turkey Born: 26 Feb 1954 (age 62) Source of Influence: Political Influence: President of 75.7 million Turkish citizens School of Thought: Traditional Sunni

2011 Rank: 3

2012 Rank: 2

2013 Rank: 6

2014/15 Rank: 6

2016 Rank: 8

“The safety and peace of our neigh- bouring countries and our brothers and friends across the world are among the pillars of our foreign policy” HE Recep Erdogan

450 %

The growth in the budget for the Minis- try of Education during his leadership, now the country’s largest ministry.The military formerly had that distinction.

2.7 mil

Syrian Refugees

formerly had that distinction. 2.7 m i l Syrian Refugees � 8 � His Excellency President


His Excellency

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan

His Excellency President Recep Tayyip Erdogan

President of the Republic of Turkey

HE Recep Tayyip Erdogan was the Prime Minister of Turkey for 11 years, winning three consecutive elections with a majority, before becoming Turkey’s first popularly-elected presi- dent in August 2014. During his three terms as Prime Minister, Turkey saw unprecedented economic growth, constitutional reform, and a re-emergence as a major global power.

The President: President Erdogan won 52% of the vote in Turkey’s first direct elections for president. This was a continuation of his remarkable popularity and success at the ballot box over the past decade. During his time as president he has pushed aggressively for more powers for his post, a move not welcomed by all, and criticised by many as signs of wanting exces- sive power. He has lost support from key members of his own party, and been criticized for cracking down on the media.

Failed Coup Ramifications: The failed coup of July 15, which led to about 200 deaths, has led to huge ramifications as Erdogan looks to root out all those involved. He has squarely laid the blame of orchestrat- ing the coup on Gulen, and has led an all-out attack on Gulen’s organisations and supporters.

There has been a major crackdown on many sectors with about 70,000 civil servants being dismissed in various state institutions, with over half from the edu- cation sector. Also, 20,000 people remain in detention with this number continually rising as authorities press ahead with regular raids.

Global Relations: Under Erdogan, Turkey has fo- cused on building stronger relations with all of its seven land-contiguous neighbours (especially Greece) and also all of those countries bordering the Black Sea (an important trading hub and a geopolitically significant area). In Africa, it has opened up over twenty new embassies and consulates and when Somalia suffered from a crippling famine and drought in 2011, Erdogan

not only gave aid, but also became the first leader from outside Africa to visit Somalia in nearly two decades. While Turkey has about 45% of its foreign trade with European countries, it is developing strong trade rela- tions with other regions and attracting investment from all over the world.

Bait-and-Switch? In July 2015 Turkey finally de- clared war on da’ish after an agreement with the US. It immediately proceeded to bomb sites in Iraq and Syria that it said were PKK sites. Turkey was consequently accused by the Kurds and by some US officials of a ‘bait-and-switch’ ploy, using Da’ish as bait to fight its old nemesis, the Kurds. This was most recently demonstrated when Turkish tanks and special forces (backed by Turkish air power) crossed the border to push DA’ISH fighters out of the last village on the Syr- ian –Turkish border. It quickly became clear that the Turkish intervention was to prevent a Syrian Kurdish fighting force which was on the verge of taking the village from doing so and the Turkish air force at- tacked Kurdish forces approaching the village as well the DA’ISH fighters inside the village. Since then the Turkish armed forces and a Syrian Arab rebel group it has armed and trained have expanded the campaign against the Syrian Kurdish fighters.

Challenges: Erdogan has been forced into a number of u-turns on both national and international issues; on its relationship with Israel, on its partnership with Russia, on how to contain DA’ISH, on how to deal with the Gulen movement, and on dissent within his own AKP movement. His dealings with these issues as well as the security of Turkey in the face of terrorist attacks are the major challenges facing him now.

The Blue Mosque in Turkey

Country: Mauritania Born: 1935 (age 81) Source of Influence: Scholarly Influence: Significant influence as a leading contemporary scholar of Islamic Jurisprudence. School of Thought: Traditional Sunni (Maliki)

2011 Rank: 31

2012 Rank: 29

2013 Rank: 23

2014/15 Rank: 20

2016 Rank: 23

“If I asked for people to die for the sake of God, I would have them lining up at my house. But when I ask people to live for the sake of God, I can’t find anyone.” Sheikh Abdullah Bin Bayyah

102 The number of years that a ter- rible misprint of

the Mardin Fatwa of Ibn Taymiyya continued to be used among extremists as the core proof of their legitimacy before Bin Bayyah corrected it based on the earliest manuscripts.


Fatwas on his official website.

on the earliest manuscripts. 114 Fatwas on his official website. � 9 � His Eminence Sheikh


His Eminence

Sheikh Abdullah bin Bayyah

His Eminence Sheikh Abdullah bin Bayyah

President of the Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies

Sheikh Abdullah bin Bayyah’s influence is derived from his scholarship, piety and preach- ing. Uniquely, all of the different sects and schools of Muslims respect him as a scholar. A testament to this is the notable fact that whilst he is not a Salafi, the Saudi government promulgates his fatwas as authoritative. He is an instructor at King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah and was the deputy head of the Union of Muslim Scholars having previously been a Judge at the High Court of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania and the Head of Shariah Affairs at the Ministry of Justice.

Education: Sheikh bin Bayyah was raised in a house- hold famous for its scholars, and his Sheikh Mah- foudh bin Bayyah, was the head of the Conference of Mauritanian Scholars established after the country’s independence. Sheikh bin Bayyah studied in the Mauritanian centres of learning known as Mahadhir, in which all the sacred sciences were taught including:

jurisprudence, legal theory, syntax, language, rhetoric, Qur'anic exegesis and its auxiliary sciences, and the science of Prophetic tradition.

The Marrakesh Declaration: Sheikh Abdallah bin Bayyah led around 250 Muslim religious leaders, in addition to approximately 50 non-Muslim religious leaders, in a three day summit in Marrakesh entitled:

‘The Rights of Religious Minorities in Predominantly Muslim Majority Communities: Legal Framework and

a Call to Action’. The summit used the original Charter

of Medina, drawn up by the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) himself, as a basis for addressing the current crisis of religious minorities in parts of the Muslim world. With extremists committing violence in the

name of Islam against other religions, as well as against most Muslims, it was necessary to voice the position of normative Islam vis-à-vis religious minorities through

Author: Having written numerous texts, Sheikh bin Bayyah’s scholarly explorations have gone global through speaking engagements that draw crowds of tens of thousands. He has spoken at length about the endurance of the Islamic legal tradition and also written extensively on rulings for Muslims living as minorities in foreign lands, or fiqh al aqaliyaat.

Diplomat: As a member of the International Is- lamic Fiqh Academy or Al Majma’ al Fiqhi of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, Sheikh bin Bayyah is at the forefront of the legal arm of a dynamic organization with a permanent delegation to the United Nations.

advisers and aides to President Obama. He called for the protection of the Syrian people and the Muslim minority in Myanmar. Also, he met with Bill Gates during the Global Vaccine Summit in Abu Dhabi in April 2013. He recently initiated the ‘Muslim Council of Elders’ which embraces leading scholars (including the Sheikh of Al-Azhar), and presided over a large gathering of religious scholars at a forum entitled ‘Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies’.

a gathering of its leading scholars. The summit con- cluded with the release of the 750 word Marrakesh Declaration (see page 57)

Activist: In June 2013, Sheikh Abdullah bin Bayyah visited the White House where he met with senior

Ben Amera, the world’s third largest monolith, is located in western Mauritania. There are also many other smaller monoliths nearby.

Country: Pakistan Born: 1923 (Age 93) Source of Influence: Scholarly, Ad- ministrative Influence: Leader of an international organisation. School of Thought: Traditional Sunni, Hanafi

2011 Rank: 16

2014/15 Rank: 10

2012 Rank: 17

2016 Rank: 10

2013 Rank: 13

“People out there are burning in the fire of ignorance and you are wasting your time here inquiring after my health!” Muhammad Ilyas al-Kandhlawi, Abd Al-Wahhab’s teacher and the founder of Tablighi Jamaat.


The number of countries that have chapters of the Tablighi Jamaat.

150 mil

Approximate number of followers.

of the Tablighi Jamaat. 150 m i l Approximate number of followers. � 10 � Amir


Amir Hajji

Muhammad Abdul-Wahhab

Hajji Muhammad Abdul-Wahhab

Amir of Tablighi Jamaat, Pakistan

Leader of the Pakistan chapter of the Tablighi Jamaat—a transnational Islamic organiza- tion dedicated to spreading the message of religious conservatism and renewed spiritual- ity—Hajji Abdul-Wahhab is a prominent Pakistani scholar with a significant following in South Asia and the United Kingdom. Although the organization does not have a central authority, Abdul-Wahhab has been increasingly influential in his leadership of the throngs of Muslims that follow the international movement in Pakistan and abroad.

Missionary: As Amir, or leader of Pakistan’s Tablighi Jamaat, Hajji Abdul-Wahhab’s influence spans globally due to the organization’s emphasis on missionary work. Considered a foremost da’ee, or inviter to the faith of Islam, Abdul-Wahhab has spoken about the need to return to the correct beliefs and practices of Islam in numerous countries and congregations.

Champion of Conservatism: Abdul-Wahhab urges Muslims to repent for their sins and to emulate the life of the Prophet Muhammad by adhering to the Sunnah—the Prophet’s teachings and deeds. Among these is an exhortation to partake in the act of da’wa or spreading the message of the faith. The Tablighi Jamaat has gradually acquired a massive membership base owing to this core tenet. Abdul-Wahhab’s work is derived from close ties to the founder of the Tablighi Jamaat, Maulana Muhammad Ilyas Kandhelvi, and stems from the prominent Islamic institution Darul Uloom Deoband, in India, where the latter studied before establishing a following in Pakistan.

Mass Appeal: Among the throngs of Pakistanis,

A member of the Tabligh Jamaat makes

his way to the annual ijtema held in Ra-

iwind, Pakistan where he will be joined by over 1.5 million others for a weekend

of spiritual rejuvination. © PHOTO BY TYLER HICKS
of spiritual rejuvination.

diaspora South Asians, and others who carry the flag of the Tablighi Jamaat are notable Muslim leaders. In Pakistan alone, Abdul-Wahhab’s influence has won the allegiance of prominent politicians, actors, and athletes. Despite his influence over key Muslim lead- ers from various fields of social power, Abdul-Wahhab is consistent in his assertion that the organization is wholly apolitical—identifying the work of the Tablighi Jamaat as a spiritual revivalist movement. Annual gatherings in Raiwind, Pakistan draw close to 2 million people, and those in Biswa, Bangladesh attract over 3 million.

Advocate of Non-violence: In light of heightened incidences of violence by fringe Islamic militant groups, Abdul-Wahhab has publicly stated the im- portance of non-violence in bringing people closer to the faith of Islam. This comes after the tragic Mumbai attacks which investigations found were linked to the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba; a militant organiza- tion Abdul-Wahhab has made a point of distancing the Tablighi Jamaat from.

Country: Oman Born: 18 Nov 1940 (Age 76) Source of Influence: Lineage, Political, Development Influence: Leader of 4 million citizens and residents of Oman. School of Thought: Traditional Ibadi

2011 Rank: 9

2012 Rank: 12

2013 Rank: 9

2014/15 Rank: 8

2016 Rank: 6

“I am working for Oman – the country and its people… for me

it is a delight to see my country and my people in the situation I imagined from the very first day

I assumed power. I feel that I am

a man with a mission rather than

a man with authority.” Sultan Qaboos


The number of years since the found- ing of the Sultanate (1650), thus mak- ing it the oldest independent state in the Gulf.

8 th

was the rank Oman achieved on the World Health Organization list for the best overall health care.

Health Organization list for the best overall health care. � 11 � His Majesty Sultan Qaboos


His Majesty

Sultan Qaboos bin Sa’id Al-Sa’id

His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Sa’id Al-Sa’id

Sultan of Oman

Sultan Qaboos bin Sa’id Al-Sa’id, the 14th descendant of the Al-Bu Sa’idi dynasty, is a socially and politically active monarch, who has ruled for over 40 years as Sultan. Sultan Qaboos has revolutionized and modernized Oman, transforming it from a poor, isolation- ist nation into a land closely-linked with the African continent and devoted to economic development, regional stability, and religious tolerance.

Leader of Omani Sultanate: Sultan Qaboos Al- Sa’id reigns over a country strategically situated in the Gulf region. Oman has a stake in the crude oil market due to the Strait of Hormuz, which connects the Gulf of Oman to the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Sea, producing over 950,000 barrels of crude oil per day in 2014, according to Oman’s Oil and Gas Ministry.

Historically, Oman is significant as one of the only countries with a large population of Ibadi Muslims and as the most authoritative state in the Ibadi move- ment—one that is recognized as one of the oldest schools of Islamic thought.

Beacon of Islam: Sultan Qaboos has helped build or restore thousands of mosques at his personal expense, the grandest being the Sultan Qaboos Mosque, which can accommodate up to 20,000 worshippers. The Sul- tan is a discreet but strong supporter of moderate Islam and has created a unique Islamic culture in Oman that has carefully combined the best of traditional Islam with the benefits of the modern world. Sultan Qaboos has promoted culturally-specific Islamic dress, art, architecture and education, and is a keen advocate of environmentalism. This quiet, measured rise has made Oman a hidden pearl of the Islamic world.

Personal Leadership: The Sultan has raised the Omani standard of living by building up Oman’s school system, health care, infrastructure, and econo- my. He cites political participation as one of his major

long-term goals. Within the last two decades, he has introduced political reforms; including a bicameral representative body, a basic law, universal suffrage, and a supreme court. Moreover, despite Oman’s relative lack of oil and gas compared to other Gulf States, the Sultan has invested his country’s wealth so wisely that all citizens are guaranteed free education up to the doctoral level (should they qualify); free healthcare, free land, soft loans for building homes, jobs and social security for the disabled, orphans and widows. Furthermore, unlike neighboring countries, Oman has resolved all its border demarcation issues with all its neighbors, has no foreign debt and has a Sovereign Wealth Reserve Fund of over 30 billion Riyals (about $100 billion). Oman is thus arguably the best administrated country in the Islamic world, if not in the whole world.

International Leader: Sultan Qaboos has been recognized by organizations such as the United Na- tions and the National Council of US-Arab Relations for his leadership in the Persian Gulf region. In 2008, he presided over the GCC Summit, where he was com- mended for his ongoing efforts toward political and economic cooperation amongst the GCC states. Sultan Qaboos has made an effort to strengthen ties between Oman and Iran, as well as the strategic partnership between Oman and India—showing the Sultan’s foresight in carving foreign policy independent of that of his Arab neighbours.

Country: UAE Born: 3 Oct 1961 (Age 55) Source of Influence: Administrative, Development, Philanthropy Influence: Military and political lead- ership. School of Thought: Traditional Sunni

2011 Rank: 18

2012 Rank: 15

2013 Rank: 10

2014/15 Rank: 9

2016 Rank: 7

“The real asset of any nation is in its people … and the prosperity and success of a country are measured by the standard of education avail- able to all its citizens.” Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed

$120 mil

His financial support of a worldwide child health initiative to eradicate polio completely by 2018.

$773 bil

Abu Dhabi is the richest city in the world.

$773 b i l Abu Dhabi is the richest city in the world. � 12 �


His Highness General Sheikh

Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan

His Highness General Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan

Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces

Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan is the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, as well as next in line to be President of the United Arab Emirates. The UAE is increasingly becoming an important centre for global weapons trading, with Abu Dhabi host to one of the world’s largest defence expos.

Political and Military Leadership: Sheikh Mo- hammed is chairman of the Abu Dhabi Executive Council—an executive leadership body in Abu Dhabi, which is constantly engaged in the assessment of public policy. Since becoming Crown Prince in 2004, Sheikh Mohammed has been recognized for his groundbreak- ing initiatives as an influential leader of Abu Dhabi as well as Deputy Supreme Commander of the armed forces. He is a special advisor to UAE President HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahyan.

Economic Development: With Abu Dhabi sitting on the 10th of the world’s proven oil reserves, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan maintains immense political influence in the Muslim World as a leading member of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company— which directs development efforts for the UAE’s role in the oil and gas industries. Sheikh Mohammed is chairman of the Abu Dhabi Council for Economic

Development (ADCED), which has been developing initiatives to boost entrepreneurship among youth in the UAE.

Humanitarian: Sheikh Mohammed is noted for his philanthropic and humanitarian efforts in charitable giving. He has donated billions of dollars to various causes, including DH55 million to the UN Global Ini- tiative to Fight Human Trafficking, and purchasing vaccines in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Sustainable Development and Conservationist:

Sheikh Mohammed has been a champion of sustain- able development in Abu Dhabi as an advocate for the implementation of green technologies. He pledged $15 billion for the development of clean energy through solar, wind and hydrogen power. He is also a keen falconer and is committed to protecting falcons and other species in the region.

and hydrogen power. He is also a keen falconer and is committed to protecting falcons and

Country: Indonesia Born: 21 June 1961 (age 55) Source of Influence: Political Influence: Leader of 252 million citi- zens and residents of Indonesia School of Thought: Traditional Sunni

2014/15 Rank: 11 2016 Rank: 11

“He’s made it possible for us to say to our kids - look at Jokowi - he used to sell furniture and grew up near a slum - and now he’s our president. Now anyone can be president.” Dharsono Hartono, an Indonesian businessman and Jokowi supporter


The number of islands that make up Indonesia, the largest archipelago in the world, which are split between 33 provinces.


Percentage of the vote he won in the indonesian presidential elections.

Percentage of the vote he won in the indonesian presidential elections. � 13 � His Excellency


His Excellency

President Joko Widodo

His Excellency President Joko Widodo

President of Indonesia

Joko Widodo, or Jokowi as he is popularly known, became the President of Indonesia on

October 20, 2014. He won 55% of the vote in the presidential elections which took place

in July 2014; a victory margin of

ing the support of religious scholars, nor coming from a wealthy or military background.

He is seen very much as a populist leader, not enjoy-

Background: President Widodo is the first Indo- nesian president not to be from the military or the political elite. He comes from a humble background of Javanese descent. His father had a small furniture business, which often couldn’t make ends meet. They struggled to put him through university, where he graduated in the field of forestry. After graduation, Widodo worked for three years in the forestry service of a state enterprise in Aceh before returning to his family business.

Successful and ‘Clean’ Politician: Widodo was the mayor of Surakarta before becoming the governor of Jakarta in September 2012.

Mayor of Surakarta: He was a successful mayor who enjoyed a close relationship with his constitu- ents. He focused on promoting the city as a centre of Javanese culture, but also developed the public transport system, healthcare and business relations with the community. He forged a reputation for being a ‘clean’ politician, avoiding the charges of corruption and nepotism which plague most politicians.

Governor of Jakarta: His political success contin- ued with his election as governor of Jakarta. He was equally successful as governor making meaningful reforms in education, public transportation, re- vamping street vendors and traditional markets, and

Terrace rice fields in Bali, Indonesia. Indonesia is the third largest producer of rice after China and India.

implementing flood control.

Presidential candidacy: Various awards (3rd place of the 2012 World Mayor Prize, one of the 'Top 10 Indonesian Mayors of 2008') testified to his success as mayor and governor, and there was little surprise when Megawati Sukarnoputri, the former President of Indonesia, chose Widodo to be the presidential candidate of the PDI-P party. He has also enjoyed the support of many musicians and artists (he himself is reported to enjoy heavy metal music), and this helped him greatly on his presidential campaign.

Blusukan Culture: President Widodo has become well-known for impromptu visits to see and hear directly from people in local communities. This has allowed him to directly address their concerns and criticisms, allowing him to develop a strong personal relationship with the public.

High Expectations: There are high expectations of Widodo. Many will be expecting him to bring the success he had in his mayor and governor posts to his presidential post. He will be expected to maintain his promotion of transparency and accountability, and whether he will continue with methods such as blu- sukun is something that many people will keep an eye on. Economic growth levels have fallen to a 6 year low leading Widodo to court international investment.

Prince Muhammad bin Naif bin Abdul-Aziz Al-Saud

Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia

HRH Prince Muhammad bin Naif is the current Crown Prince, First Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Interior of Saudi Arabia and chairman of the recently established Council for Political and Security Affairs. The appointment of Prince Muhammad as Crown Prince marks the first time a grandson rather than a son of the late King Abdul-Aziz has held the position.

Background: HRH Prince Muhammad is the son of the late Crown Prince Naif bin Abdul-Aziz Al-Saud, and was initially educated in Riyadh before receiving further education in the USA and UK in politics, law enforcement and counter-terrorism. He was appointed as Assistant Minister of Interior for Security Affairs in 1999 by the late King Fahd, and was appointed Minister in 2005 by the late King Abdallah. After a successful decade in his post, he was appointed, in 2015, as first in line to the throne and first Deputy Prime Minister by King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz.

Countering Terrorism: HRH Prince Muhammad has successfully implemented the Kingdom’s policy against terrorism, which includes not only security measures but also extensive counselling services. The Muhammad bin Naif Counselling and Care Centre is a rehabilitation centre which counters extremist ideology through exposure to traditional mainstream Islamic teachings. Around 3,000 people have gradu- ated from the centre since its establishment in 2008. These measures have made Prince Muhammad himself a target for terrorists, and he has survived four assas- sination attempts.

Humanitarian Relief: HRH Prince Muhammad bin Naif chairs several humanitarian and service commit- tees that provide relief from natural as well as man- made disasters. He has supervised relief campaigns to Lebanon, Palestine, Somalia, Syria, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Palestine, Somalia, Syria, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Country : Saudi Arabia Born : 30 August 1959 (Age

Country: Saudi Arabia Born: 30 August 1959 (Age 57) Source of Influence: Political School of Thought: Moderate Salafi


His Royal Highness

Prince Muhammad bin Naif bin Abdul-Aziz Al-Saud

HRH Prince Muhammad bin Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al-Saud

Deputy Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia

HRH Prince Muhammad bin Salman Al-Saud is the Deputy Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Chief of the Royal Court, Second Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence, all at the tender age of 31.

Rapid Appointments: At the beginning of 2015, Prince Muhammad bin Salman was largely unknown in political and diplomatic circles. Since his father’s accession to the throne in January 2015, Prince Mu- hammad has been swiftly appointed to a number of powerful positions. He was first, on 23 January, appointed Minister of Defence, and also named Secretary General of the Royal Court. Then, on 29 January, Prince Muhammad was named the chair of the Council for Economic and Development Affairs, and then in April 2015 Prince Muhammad was appointed Deputy Crown Prince.

Military Challenges: As Minister of Defence the young prince has to deal with many key military issues which Saudi Arabia is currently involved in. He is per- haps most personally identified with the air campaigns against Houthi strongholds in Yemen. Saudi Arabia is also backing the international coalition against DA’ISH in Iraq and Syria, supporting the monarchy in Bahrain, and arming the anti-Assad forces in Syria.

Charity Work and Youth Development: Before his recent promotions, Prince Muhammad bin Salman was known as the founder and chairman of the ‘Misk Foundation’, a charitable initiative seeking to bolster creativity, innovation and talent in Saudi youths in the fields of science, arts and technology. He also heads the King Salman Youth Centre. These experiences, and his own age, have made him popular amongst the youth (70% of the Saudi population is under 30).

amongst the youth (70% of the Saudi population is under 30). Country : Saudi Arabia Born

Country: Saudi Arabia Born: 31 August 1985 (Age 31) Source of Influence: Political School of Thought: Moderate Salafi


His Royal Highness

Prince Muhammad bin Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al-Saud

Country: Saudi Arabia Born: 1943 (Age 73) Source of Influence: Scholarly, Ad- ministrative Influence: Grand Mufti to 30.8 million Saudi residents and the global network of Salafi Muslims. School of Thought: Salafi

2011 Rank: 14

2012 Rank: 18

2013 Rank: 14

2014/15 Rank: 12

2011 Rank: 12

“Extremist and militant ideas and terrorism which spread decay on Earth, destroying human civilisa- tion, are not in any way part of Islam, but are enemy number one of Islam, and Muslims are their first victims.” Sh. Abdul Aziz Aal Al-Sheikh


The number of audio fatwas and lec- tures on his personal website.


The age at which he lost his eyesight, 51 years ago.

© Hassan Ammar / AP


His Eminence

Sheikh Abdul-Aziz Aal Al-Sheikh

His Eminence Sheikh Abdul-Aziz ibn Abdullah Aal Al-Sheikh

Grand Mufti of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

As the Grand Mufti, Sheikh Abdul-Aziz ibn Abdullah Aal Al-Sheikh has the highest posi- tion of religious authority in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. He is an Islamic scholar based in Makkah and has influence as a leading cleric of the expansive global movement of Salafi Muslims.

Salafi Lineage: The Aal Al-Sheikh family in Saudi Arabia traditionally controls the religious and justice establishments. They are descended from Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab (1703–1792), the founder of Wah- habi and Salafi thought, and for 250 years have been closely associated and intermarried with the ruling Al-Saud family.

occasions of ‘Eid and the weekly Friday observations are valid occasions to celebrate. In this, and also in his condemnation of Turkish soap operas sweeping the Arab World, Al-Sheikh has stressed the importance of eliminating distracting practices. He is also ardently opposed to the practice of marrying off very young girls to older men, emphasizing its incongruence with human decency and Islamic tradition.

Head of Sunni Jurisprudential Committees:

Sheikh Abdul-Aziz Aal Al-Sheikh is chairman of the Council of Senior Scholars, a scientific consultative commission composed of leading Sunni specialist scholars of Sharia (Islamic law). He has been behind fatwas that call for more rights for women and chil- dren.

Central Figure of Global Salafi Movement:

As Grand Mufti of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Al-Sheikh is the leading religious figure of the Saudi- based network of Salafi Muslims. The rulings derived by Al-Sheikh are based heavily on a literal reading of the Qur’an and emphasize the need to strip away in- novative cultural practices that have become a part of Muslims’ lives . The movement he leads is characterized by an authoritative stance on Islamic religious practice.

Eminent Scholarship: Grand Mufti Al-Sheikh is recognized as a leading contemporary scholar of Islam. He has leveraged this influence by openly speaking out against Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda as entities that push a dangerous ideological terrorism. He spoke for the need for a war—to be fought by academics, the media, religious leaders and even parents—against deviant thought that leads overzealous Muslims to- ward extremism and violence. He recently described DA’ISH as ‘evil’, and called them ‘the number one enemy of Islam’.

Al-Sheikh is also chairman of the Permanent Commit- tee for Islamic Research and Fatwas (religious edicts), a special committee designated for the researching and issuing of religious rulings and edicts on jurisprudence, the Hadith, and Aqida (creed) for the Sunni world.

As head of the Presidency for Scientific Research and Religious Edicts (Dar al Ifta), Al-Sheikh is often the spokesperson for controversial rulings issued from the Kingdom. He is recognized for his influence in enforcing a distinct view of Islamic tradition. In 2008, he publicly criticized Muslim televangelists who encouraged Muslims to celebrate birthdays and anniversaries—stressing, instead, that only the two

Country: Senegal Born: 1955 (Age 61) Source of Influence: Lineage, Scholarly Influence: Spiritual leader of around 100 million Tijani Muslims. School of Thought: Traditional Sunni (Maliki, Tijani)

2011 Rank: 26

2012 Rank: 23

2013 Rank: 19

2014/15 Rank: 13

2016 Rank: 13

“You can only go to Paradise or to Hellfire, and you have to work for Paradise in this life. This is the way, and here, is the place to work for reward in the Hereafter.” Sh Ahmad Tijani Ali Cisse


The year the founder of the Tijani Tariqa passed away.

1 mil+

The number of people who attended the 72nd anniversary of the construc- tion of the Grand Mosque Medine- Baye, Senegal.

of the construc- tion of the Grand Mosque Medine- Baye, Senegal. � 16 � His Eminence


His Eminence

Sheikh Ahmad Tijani Ali Cisse

Sheikh Ahmad Tijani bin Ali Cisse

Leader of the Tijaniyya Sufi Order

Sheikh Ahmad Tijani bin Ali Cisse is the spiritual leader of the Tijaniyya Sufi order. The Tijaniyya is the largest Sufi order in Western Africa, and its leader commands a following of millions, who see him as their guide to true Islam.

Leader of Tijani Muslims: Cisse became leader of the Tijaniyyah following the death of his elder brother Sheikh Hassan Cisse in 2008. He is the Imam of the Grand Mosque in Medina Baye, Senegal, which is one of Western Africa’s key positions of Islamic leadership. Tijani Muslims are located throughout Western Africa and further afield. As an order, Tijanis give allegiance to their sheikh giving him significant influence as a leader.

Education and Activities: Sheikh Tijani Cisse (b. 1955) studied Qur’an, Arabic and classical texts with both his father, Sheikh ‘Ali Cisse, and his legendary grandfather, Sheikh Ibrahim Niass. He then continued his studies at Al- Azhar University in Egypt, studying Arabic and Usul al-Din (theology). Upon completing his studies in Egypt, he traveled extensively throughout Africa, the Middle East and America. He attended many conferences and participated in religious debates. He also managed to edit and publish several important works, including Sheikh Ibrahim’s Kashif al-Ilbas.

Posts: In 2001, Sheikh Tijani Cisse was appointed Senegal’s General Commissioner for the Hajj. In 2006, he was again recognized by Senegalese President Aboulaye Wade and appointed a Senegalese “Special Missions Ambassador”, a position he holds until the present time. He has also received Senegal’s distin- guished award, the Ordre de Merite (1993).

Descendent of The Tijaniyya Founder: The Tijaniyya is a Sufi order founded by Ahmad al Tijani Hasani, an Algerian, in the late 18th century. As the spiritual leader of the Tijaniyya, Cisse is considered to be the bearer of a spiritual inspiration called the Fayda Tijaniyya, giving him authority to carry on the teachings of Ahmad al Tijani Hasani. Because of this position, some Tijani Muslims refer to Cisse as the reviver of the Sunnah.

LEFT: Mosque and Maqam of Sheikh Tijani, the founder of the Tijani Tariqa, in Fez, Morocco.

the reviver of the Sunnah. LEFT: Mosque and Maqam of Sheikh Tijani, the founder of the

Country: Nigeria Born: 17 December 1942 (age 74) Source of Influence: Political Influence: President of Nigeria School of Thought: Traditional Sunni

2016 Rank: 20

“Insecurity, corruption and eco- nomic collapse have brought the nation low.” President Muhammadu Buhari

1.15 bil

allocated for poverty reduction pro- gramme annually.

12 th

largest producer of petroleum in the world and the 8th largest exporter.

producer of petroleum in the world and the 8th largest exporter. � 17 � His Excellency


His Excellency

President Muhammadu Buhari

HE President Muhammadu Buhari

President of Nigeria

President Muhammadu Buhari was sworn in as President of Nigeria in May 2015. He was the candidate for the All Progressives Congress and won the presidential election by almost 2.6 million votes. This was the first time in Nigeria’s political history in which power transferred peacefully from one political party to another.

Military Past: President Buhari began his military ca- reer at the Nigerian Military Training School of Kaduna in 1963. He was involved in military counter-coups in 1966 and 1975, and the coup of 1983 which overthrew the democratically-elected government and resulted in him being head of state for two years. During these years, he gained fame for his all-out war against corruption and indiscipline, a reputation he has since kept. In 1985 he was overthrown and kept in detention for 3 years.

a project involving over 3200 kilometres of pipelines.

Both the Warri and Kaduna refineries were built under his leadership. He also established the blueprints for the country’s petro-chemical and liquefied natural gas programmes.

Economy and infrastructure: President Buhari was the first chairman of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and was the mastermind behind the construction of 20 oil depots throughout Nigeria,

President will have to show firm resolve and determina- tion to stop the terror attacks. In July 2014, he escaped a suicide bombing attack that killed over 50 people.

Anti-Corruption Presidential Candidate: President Buhari ran as the main opposition candidate in the presidential elections of 2003, 2007 and 2011, all ending in defeat, before winning in 2015. His platform was built around his image as a staunch anti-corruption fighter and his reputation for honesty and incorruptibility. He is considered an icon by the Muslims of northern Nigeria, but enjoys nationwide respect due to his stance on corruption.

Fighting Boko Haram: The President has put defeating Boko Haram on top of his agenda. Boko Haram’s actions have consistently caused international outrage, and the

Environment: President Buhari is an active environ- mentalist who has drafted several plans to preserve wildlife in Nigeria. He has also exerted great efforts on the conservation of nature in Nigeria; such as controlling the logging industry whereby he has ensured that double

the number of trees felled are replaced by loggers. He has also worked on restricting the Ecological Fund Office so

it can deliver on environmental challenges.


Country: Egypt Born: 3 Mar 1953 (Age 63) Source of Influence: Scholarly, Political Influence: Legal authority for 87 mil- lion Egyptian Muslims School of Thought: Traditional Sunni

2011 Rank: 12

2012 Rank: 14

2013 Rank: 12

2014/15 Rank: 15

2016 Rank: 16

“This is not just an attack on Copts, this is an attack on me and you and all Egyptians, on Egypt and its his- tory and its symbols, by terrorists who know no God, no patriotism, and no humanity,” Sh. Dr Ali Gomaa


The number of books in his personal library which is sought out by students and researchers from around the world in need of rare texts.


The number of years he was grand mufti of Egypt.

need of rare texts. 10 The number of years he was grand mufti of Egypt. �


His Eminence

Sheikh Dr Ali Goma’a

His Eminence Sheikh Dr Ali Goma’a

Former Grand Mufti of the Arab Republic of Egypt

Sheikh Ali Goma’a is the former Grand Mufti of the Arab Republic of Egypt. He is one of the foremost Islamic scholars in the world. Despite retiring from the post of Grand Mufti of Egypt, Goma’a has remained active on many fronts and his counsel is more in demand than ever before.

Egypt’s Weight in Islamic Scholarship: Goma’a’s scholarly influence is derived from his position at the centre of many of the most significant institutions of Islamic law in the world. Before becoming Grand Mufti, Goma’a was a professor of jurisprudence at Al-Azhar University—the second oldest university in the world, founded in 975 CE—Goma’a also served as a member of the Fatwa Council. He is currently a member of the International Islamic Fiqh Academy, the highest institute of Islamic law in the Organization of the Islamic Conference—an intergovernmental or- ganization for Muslim-majority countries. Goma’a has authored over 50 books, as well as hundreds of articles.

munity of Jerusalem.

Personal Popularity: Goma’a was exceedingly popular as a mufti and remains ever popular since his retirement. Apart from appearing on popular broadcast and satellite television, he also revived the practice of informal ‘knowledge circles’ at the Al-Azhar Mosque, and the very well attended Q&A sessions after his Friday sermons at the Sultan Hasan Mosque, where Goma’a makes a point of taking on anyone who tries to simplify or distort Islamic teachings without knowledge of its traditions. This has made him ex- tremely popular with those who are against extremism, as well as also making him a target for the extermists. He recently escaped an assassination attempt on his life outside a mosque in Cairo.

Popularized and Simplified Fatwas: Goma’a has immense legal influence through his advocacy of Islamic religious edicts (fatwas). When he was Grand Mufti of Egypt, he modernized the process of issuing fatwas in the country. He did this by overhauling the Dar Al-Ifta organization into a dynamic institution with worldwide reach, based on a fatwa council and a system of checks and balances.

Visit to the Holy Al-Aqsa Mosque Controversy:

On April 18th, 2012, Sheikh Ali Goma’a, with HRH Prince Ghazi of Jordan, broke what had been a 45 year taboo in some parts of the Islamic World (propagated notably by Qatar based Sheikh Al-Qaradawi) and visited the Al-Aqsa Mosque in order to pray there and support the beleaguered Muslim community in Jerusalem. The visit was viewed as controversial in Egypt, but set off a change of public opinion in the Islamic World that continues to this day. The Grand Mufti also visited the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, which was much appreciated by the Christian com-

Sunset in Cairo.

Country: Saudi Arabia Born: May 1955 (Age 61) Source of Influence: Scholarly, Media Influence: 53 published books, su- pervises, and reaches millions through TV School of Thought: Moderate Salafi

2011 Rank: 19

2012 Rank: 20

2013 Rank: 16

2014/15 Rank: 16

2016 Rank: 17

“When we stumble and forget ourselves, this should make us all the more vigilant to maintain our dignity and composure in the future: to be patient, to pardon and to overlook.” Sheikh Salman Al-Ouda

6.2 mil

Number of followers on his Facebook page with an additional 9.8 million followers on Twitter at the time of publication.


The number of his publications.

followers on Twitter at the time of publication. 53 The number of his publications. � 19



Salman Al-Ouda

Sheikh Salman Al-Ouda

Saudi scholar and educator

A leading Saudi sheikh, Salman Al-Ouda is a former hard-line cleric turned advocate of

peaceful coexistence. He is increasingly influential due to his innovative reach in the Muslim World propagated via and his persistent efforts at ministering to the needs

of the global Muslim community.

Key Scholar of Salafi Network: Sheikh Salman Al-Ouda is a leading scholar of the Salafi movement. Although he is not noted for propagating innovative ideas within the network, he has notable influence in the movement due to his use of multiple modes of education (the Internet, audiovisual media, and print) to educate the large body of Salafi Muslims in the Islamic sciences. Sheikh Al-Ouda’s website brings together a diverse range of Islamic scholars and educa- tors to provide guidance in Islamic thought.

million fans on Facebook and nearly that many views of his official videos on YouTube. He also has over 9 million followers on Twitter.

Innovative Educator: Al-Ouda developed a follow- ing from weekly talks at his local mosque in Buraydah and has become an authority for Muslims and non- Muslims worldwide who access—a Saudi-funded website dedicated to providing Islamic educational resources in English, Arabic, French and Chinese. He also addresses Islamic issues on the Saudi satellite channel MBC.

Ambassador of Non-violence: In an effort to distance himself from alleged connections to perpe- trators of terrorism, Al-Ouda is outspoken about the importance of inculcating love and mercy as opposed to violence (except in valid cases of self-defense) in the daily lives of Muslims. As a prominent member of the International Union for Muslim Scholars, he led the delegation in talks with Arab heads of state regarding the need for them to unite in opposition to Israel’s siege of Gaza in early 2009. He has strongly condemned DA’ISH.

Influence Through Virtual Islamic Resources:

Sheikh Al-Ouda supervises all content published on—a website that offers virtual resources for Islamic education in multiple languages. His work has far-reaching impact in an age when religion is spread through media and technology, with Islam- at the forefront of this trend. In response to a February 2010 ruling from the Al-Azhar Fatwa Committee condemning the use of Facebook, Sheikh Al-Ouda defended the social networking website, stating that he uses it to communicate with Muslims across the globe and to provide Islamic guidance online. Sheikh Al-Ouda has a following of over five

Country: Indonesia Born: 3 July 1953 (Age 63) Source of Influence: Administrative, Political, Education Influence: Leader of approximately 30 million members of the Nahdlatul Ulama School of Thought: Traditional Sunni

2011 Rank: 17

2012 Rank: 19

2013 Rank: 15

2014/15 Rank: 17

2016 Rank: 18

“I am not interested in any politi- cal offers. I will never run for any presidential or vice presidential election; for me Nahdlatul Ulama chairman is the highest position [of all].” KH Said Aqil Siradj


The number of boarding schools under Nahdlatual Ulama.

40 mil

The estimated number of members in the NU.

schools under Nahdlatual Ulama. 40 mil The estimated number of members in the NU. � 20



Said Aqil Siradj

Dr Kh Said Aqil Siradj

Chairman of Indonesia’s Nahdlatul Ulama

Dr KH Said Aqil Siradj is the leader of Indonesia’s largest independent Muslim organization and one of the world’s most influential Islamic organizations, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), or ‘Awakening of Scholars’. Siradj guides millions through his work with the NU.

Head of Expansive Network: The Nahdlatul Ulama boasts an expansive network that covers 30 regions with 339 branches, 12 special branches, 2,630 repre- sentative councils and 37,125 sub-branch representative councils across Indonesia. This network practices the doctrine of Ahlassunah wal Jama’ah, which is Arabic for ‘people of the Sunnah (practices of the Prophet Muhammad) and the community’. They base their practices on the traditional sources of Islamic juris- prudence—mainly the Qur’an, Hadith, and major schools of law. Among its aims are the propagation of Nahdlatul Ulama’s message and also an expansion of its already extensive network of members in Indonesia. This is the basis of many of the organization’s social reform efforts. With a solid structure of central and regional boards, branch and special branch boards, and various advisory councils, Siradj sits at the top of this increasingly influential Sunni movement.

Model of Traditionalism: With a mainly rural membership base, the Nahdlatul Ulama distinguishes itself from other Islamic organizations in Indonesia by positioning itself as a premier organization of traditional Islam—with an emphasis on education and political engagement based on Islamic principles.

Social Service: The Nahdlatul Ulama has made substantial charitable contributions to Indonesian society in the fields of educational development, healthcare, and poverty alleviation. Siradj, like his predecessors, propagates the Nahdlatul Ulama as an organization that is geared toward establishing a secular nation-state based on a body of modern and moderate Muslims—with agenda items such as anti- corruption laws and social reform measures that are deeply rooted in Islamic principles.

Human Rights Activism: Prior to his role as Nah- dlatul Ulama chairman, Siradj served on Indonesia’s National Commission for Human Rights. Only a few weeks into his position as chairman of the country’s largest Muslim political party, and after violent clashes erupted in different churches across the country, Siradj made strong statements condemning the discrimina- tion against Christian minority groups in Indonesia.

Educational Reform: Siradj has an extensive aca- demic background in the Islamic sciences, and regards education as a tool for development. He founded the Said Aqil Centre in Egypt, a study centre that focuses on developing Islamic discourse, particularly in the Arab World.

A traditional Indonesian mountain village in

East Java. East Java has been the core base

of the Nahdlatul Ulama since its establish-

ment in 1926.

Country: Egypt Born: 19 November 1954 (Age: 62) Source of Influence: Political Influence: President of Egypt School of Thought: Traditional Sunni

2013 Rank: 29

2014/15 Rank: 24

2016 Rank: 19

“I want you Egyptians to delegate the army and the police to confront violence in a suitable way.” Abdel Fattah Saeed Al-Sisi

26 mil

The number of signatures supporting his candidacy for president


Number of years he served in the Egyptian army.

president 37 Number of years he served in the Egyptian army. � 21 � His Excellency


His Excellency

President Abdel Fattah Saeed Al-Sisi

His Excellency President Abdel Fattah Saeed Al-Sisi

President of the Arab Republic of Egypt

Former Field Marshal Abdel Fattah Saeed al-Sisi was sworn into office as President of Egypt on 8 June 2014, having earlier that year resigned from his post as the Commander in Chief of the Egyptian Armed Forces. As a civilian and as Deputy Prime Minister Sisi went on to win the presidential elections held in May 2014. Since then, and despite acts of terrorism, a DA’ISH insurgency in the Sinai, occasional bombings by elements from within or sym- pathetic to the Muslim Brotherhood, Sisi and his cabinet of technocrats have undertaken major steps to restore a sense of stability, revive the economy as well as undertake successful political and diplomatic initiatives beyond Egypt’s borders.

Army: Sisi first came to public attention when then President Muhammed al-Morsi of the Muslim Broth- erhood retired the head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces ( SCAF) and promoted Sisi to take his place; to serve as the Commander-in-Chief as well as Minister of Defence in Morsi’s new cabinet. Sisi was known for his personal piety and that is considered the thinking behind Morsi’s decision. Morsi had confused piety with sympathy for the Muslim Brotherhood, a common error among Islamists. Morsi was increasingly perceived as a President solely dedicated to increasing the concentration of power in the hands of the Muslim Brotherhood. Morsi had ruled out any sort of massive public works necessary to generate new jobs – steps that would subsequently be undertaken by Sisi.

A Coup by Popular Demand: On June 30 2013, millions of Egyptians again took to the streets in larger numbers than ever before. They demanded Morsi step down. Morsi refused. He also refused Sisi’s demand that he negotiate an understanding with the united opposition, several dozen political movements that had either rallied or taken form during the 2011 Tahrir Uprising. Morsi had promised this opposition, on the eve of the second round of the election that brought him to power, a role in any government he might form; a promise that was never kept. So the armed forces intervened, deposing and arresting Morsi. At that moment Sisi enjoyed a massive popularity reminiscent of the following acquired by Gamal Abdul Nasser after his coup. But the MB’s organized protests against Sisi came to a head in August 2013 when the Interim government finally ordered the Ministry of Interior to disperse two large MB organized settlement-like- encampments in Cairo where MB speakers were calling for Morsi’s restoration, and refusing negotiations until that happened. They called on their supporters not to

disperse but to welcome martyrdom. That call and the sporadic gunfire directed at the paramilitary police as they moved in, ultimately resulted in the death of many hundreds of protesters. Almost simultaneously, outbreaks of violence by pro-Morsi militants occurred in the countryside that included armed attacks on churches, police stations, priests and nuns.

Presidential Expectations: With the MB officially banned, its leadership and cadre either in prison or in exile, Egyptians have looked to Sisi to resolve other issues. A depressing feature of daily life in Egypt in the summer of 2014 were daily power cuts. Sisi was expected to act swiftly and effectively; to a great de- gree he has. The blistering hot summer of 2015 passed with barely a single power cut thanks to significantly increased imports and the redirection of available power to general rather than industrial use – a tem- porary solution that will require more imports until

a new offshore natural gas field – estimated as the

largest in the Mediterranean comes on stream within